Tag Archives: leadership

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

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 .

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Critical skill shortage 5: Technical skills

Welcome to the final article in this series based on data about skills shortages in the banking and finance sector, collected in the Kelly Skills at Work 2010 study.  See our blog for previous articles on this topic.

All the skills we looked at previously in this series – communication, problem solving and decision making, strategic thinking and people management – are of limited value to a business if they are not accompanied by the requisite technical knowledge.

There is a growing demand for professionals who possess relevant and transferrable technical skills.

This current skills shortage will become critical due to the following factors:

  • Baby Boomers are retiring, taking critical skills and knowledge with them,
  • Products and services offered to clients are growing in numbers and complexity and
  • Customers are expecting more sophisiticated advice and more individualised services.

The smart organisations in the sector are building their talent base in all the skill areas we’ve examined in this series.

According to the Kelly study, they are attracting and retaining mid to senior level talent with the right skills in the following ways:

  • Attractive and competitive pay and benefits (83% of respondents)
  • Talent and career development training (71%)
  • Internal promotion (62%)
  • Work life balance initiatives (42%)
  • Hiring from other organisations (25%)
  • Attracting younger workers (17%)
  • Attracting older and more experienced workers (17%)
  • Increased reliance on foreign talent (9%)
  • Delayed retirement (8%)
  • Temporary and contract work arrangements (7%)

Most organisations will find that some of these approaches are less sustainable than others.

What’s your talent attraction and retention strategy?  How well is it going to serve you in the longer term?

As always, I’d love to know what you think.  Please add your comments below.

 

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Critical skill shortage 4: People management

This is the fifth article in a series based on data about skills shortages in the banking and finance sector, collected in the Kelly Skills at Work 2010 study.  See our blog for previous articles in this series.

The ability to lead, motivate and inspire others is another skill that was identified as being critical to success, yet in short supply among local mid to senior level managers.

In the previous article, we looked at the importance and definition of strategic thinking.  A related basic people management skill is to ensure your staff have the right skills and personal attitudes to deliver on your business strategy.

To be successful as a leader, managers need to be willing to explore and use different ways to:

  • Identify and hire top performers,
  • Inspire and motivate people in the business, and
  • Support others to develop and extend their skills.

Plenty of information exists on how to manage people by applying active listening, coaching and delegation techniques, as you will find if you do an internet search on any of these terms.

What is harder to find out is how to negotiate the more  subtle aspects of keeping people engaged and committed.

This is not ‘book learning’ but instead comes down to being self-aware and sensitive to the preferences and needs of others.  The real skill is in knowing when you need to get help and learn more, both about yourself and about others.

‘Employee loyalty, motivation and trust in the organisation all suffer if leaders and managers are careless about the way they treat people.’

Where do you think you stand?  Could the way you treat people be affecting your bottom line?

Hint:  The answer is always  ‘Yes’ – but the impact may be positive or negative in your organisation!

We provide our clients with specialised tools and coaching for both the practical aspects of people management and f0r developing the self-awareness required to be able to manage people well.

Which part of people management could you use some help with right now?

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Critical skill shortage 3: Strategic thinking

This is the fourth of six articles based on data about skills shortages in the banking and finance sector, collected in the Kelly Skills at Work 2010 study.  See our blog for previous articles in this series.

In the Kelly study, strategic thinking was identified by study participants as a key skill that is in critical shortage among managers in the financial services industry.  It has been argued that this skill gap contributed to the GFC.

According to the survey results, an ‘aptitude’ for strategic thinking is important, as well as the capacity to:

  • identify and assess multiple external factors,
  • evaluate options and risks, and
  • solve complex financial challenges, both on behalf of clients and for the business.

Thinking strategically is a valuable skill in any position.  For those in charge of setting direction, strategic thinking is essential.

Strategy, strategic and related terms are among the most over-used and abused words in business.  Researchers have spent years dissecting and defining what is and isn’t strategic.  For a fascinating discussion of the differences between strategic thinking and strategic planning,  see this brief Wikipedia entry.

Interestingly, in a business dictionary dating from the 1970’s, none of the terms above were included!

What do we expect from strategic thinkers?

Despite the difficulties of defining the characteristics of strategic thinking, there is general concensus that the outcome is to bring the organisation’s vision to reality.

Whether we believe strategic thinkers are born or made, it is possible for us to identify people who have the potential to think strategically.

However, strategic judgement is a complex set of competencies as this definition and list of relevant traits from Harrison Assessments demonstrates:

Strategic Judgement = the tendency to have a balance of traits necessary to discern pertinent information and formulate an effective strategy.

This competency is made up of essential traits: Analytical, Analyses Pitfalls, Research/Learning, Intuitive, Collaborative, Self-Improvement, Systematic; desirable traits: Experimenting, Persistent, Certain, Pressure Tolerance, Optimistic, Planning, Self-Acceptance, Relaxed, Open/Reflective; and traits to avoid: Blindly Optimistic, Impulsive, Skeptical, Defensive, Dogmatic, Easily Influenced, Fast but Imprecise, Precise but Slow.

Although we think we know what we mean when we talk about strategic thinking or judgement, we should be careful about jumping to conclusions about someone’s ability until we have seen the evidence!

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Critical skill shortage 2: Problem solving and decision making

This is the third of six articles inspired by data about skills shortages in the banking and finance sector, from the Kelly Skills at Work 2010 study.  See our blog for previous articles, posted on 2 and 9 May 2011.

The Kelly study identified problem solving and decision making together as a critical skill that is in short supply among mid to senior level managers.

In the current environment of uncertainty and rapid change, the ability to solve problems and make appropriate choices are essential for:

  • giving high quality, appropriate and timely advice to clients,
  • having a reputable, sustainable and profitable practice and
  • complying with regulatory requirements.

What do we mean by problem solving and decision making?

The ability to do both these things well depends on the degree to which a person possesses all of the following qualities:

  • A tendency to logically analyse facts and problems, as well as examining the potential difficulties of any plan, balanced by –
  • A willingness to use intuition in decision making (especially important when there are a lot of variables that can’t be analysed objectively);
  • The desire to have the authority to make decisions and to take responsibility for the outcomes while also being –
  • Prepared to collaborate with others who may have valuableinformation that needs to be taken into account.

How can you build on your natural strengths in this area?

  • Uncover your strengths, as well as areas for improvement.
  • Step outside your comfort zone by taking on greater challenges.
  • Practice!  See our free worksheet ‘Are you sitting (too) comfortably?’ to get you started.

Like to know more about your strengths (and your team’s) and how to develop them further?  Contact us to organise an assessment and/or coaching.

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

Top 5 critical skills in shortfall

The Kelly Skills at Work 2010 study uncovered a serious skills  shortage in the Banking and Finance Sector in the Asia Pacific region.

The five skills most in demand are also those considered most critical for mid to senior level managers across all industries.

Of all organisations surveyed,  88% said the shortage of staff with the right skills had a negative impact on their ability to serve clients.

As the FOFA reforms come into play for those readers giving financial advice, we will begin to see the real impact of this skill shortfall in terms of client attraction and retention.

If you’re an employer, you will find it increasingly difficult to identify and hire people with these critical skills.

The top 5 critical skills in shortage are:

1.  Communication including the critical abilities to

  • build long-term, successful, professional relationships with clients, in addition to selling a product or service and
  • communicate complex financial concepts to a non-finance audience in a simple and tactful way.

2.  Problem solving and decision making required for

  • complying with high levels of regulation and
  • dealing with environmental uncertainties.

3.  Strategic thinking to

  • assess multiple external factors and
  • develop and evaluate options.

4.  People Management with the ability to

  • lead, motivate and inspire and
  • ensure teams have the right balance of skills.

5.  Technical skills

  • relevant, up to date and transferrable knowledge and
  • an ability to deal with more sophisticated products and markets.

What has been your experience?  Have you suffered a skills shortage crisis?  Have you found effective ways of dealing with the skills shortage?  What are your plans for the future?  Please share your thoughts below.

 

 

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Are you ready for the long goodbye?

Last week’s article on how many employees want to change jobs – and why – had some great feedback.  If you missed the article, click here to read it.

Among the responses to the article was this:

Hi Susan

Sometimes I can’t let your articles go by without comment.

I am stunned at the stats. I thought it was only me, but in all the job changes I have had in my life, the reasons were, those outlined in your article for each and every time I moved on. Of course we don’t say this in case we burn a bridge or two for our future and we don’t want to appear to be the problem so we put up with it for as long as we can then move on to “an opportunity that provides me with the scope to develop” or “one that will allow me to expand my horizons”, or ” a move that will more consistently complement my skills and future goals” and other stupid euphemisms.

The writer later told me he believes people don’t willingly leave a job they really love.  He did so once for ‘a ridiculous amount of money’.  “That was a big mistake!” he said.

Sound familiar?

When it comes to employee departures, prevention is definitely better (and cheaper) than cure.  Here are a few simple tips:

  1. Check that you have put people in roles that suit their unique talents and abilities to ensure peak performance and job satisfaction.
  2. Check  that they know what’s expected of them so you can regularly measure and reward performance.
  3. Check that they feel challenged and valued.

With just those three checks in place, I guarantee you will be well on the way to actively managing staff turnover and avoiding ‘the long goodbye’.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Research bosses should know about

According to the latest annual ‘Hunting the (Hidden) Hunters’ report from CareerOne,  longer hours, inadequate resources and a reluctance of organisations to increase salaries are factors driving workers to hand in their resignation.

82% of Australian workers considered changing jobs last year

37% of employees are actively pursuing new roles

The following comment was posted on the Herald Sun website in response to this research.

I hate my job, passionately hate it! Business owners, CEO’s, Managers, Team Leaders take note! There is no longer inspirational leaders or people in control who work hard to make the workplace one to ‘want’ to come to each day.There is noone to look up to, who has passion and drive! I drag myself out of bed to a workplace that is back in the 50’s era. Although I work in marketing, and it is a small business, I am expected to clean! I wipe over the kitchen and lunch room but it is now expected I do more because I am female! I had to fight to be allowed to have a heater on in winter, my boss doesnt like turning the aircon on too much because it costs, any little job that goes above and beyond is never acknowledge, no thankyou whatsoever, my boss whines when we are quiet and whines when we are extremely busy but does not put on extra staff. I have been accused of not showing initiative which was beyond me because my boss would not know half the research I do, or the little things I organise for the company. It is a job that is pure hell. Part time work is hard to come by so although I am looking elsewhere, it is hard! I bet there are many in the same boat!

Uncomfortable?  What if that person was working in your office?

The factors most likely to motivate an employee to change jobs this year are:

  • not being motivated by management (44%)
  • lack of new challenges (40%)
  • waiting too long for a pay rise (39%)
  • an unclear career path (37%)

People changed jobs for:

  • work closer to home
  • a better team
  • higher remuneration and benefits

With unemployment now back down to 5%, it’s essential to be proactive in attracting and retaining quality staff.  The CareerOne research also tells us what’s important to employees in specific industries.  For financial services, the following advantages need to be emphasised in your job advertisements and discussions with staff and job candidates:

  • flexible hours
  • ability to work from home
  • training and development opportunities
  • potential for pay rises

Administration and customer service staff were less motivated by career potential or higher remuneration, instead seeking flexibility, mentoring and paid overtime.

Tip: It’s one thing knowing ‘what’ needs to be done, a quite different thing to know ‘how’ to do it.  If you are motivated to make changes in your business and you’d like help with the ‘how’, please give us a call.

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

Time for some weeding and pruning?

Doing some gardening yesterday afternoon, I was reflecting on the many similarities between creating and growing a garden and how we live our lives.

There are the obvious steps of planning, sowing and harvesting. Once your garden’s established, most of the activity comes down to what to keep and what has to go.

Did you make a New Year’s resolution to quit smoking or lose weight? These are two examples of powerful changes that can occur based on letting something go – assuming you stick to your resolution, of course.

The same potential for positive change exists in your business life when you take a critical look at those practices, people and work habits that don’t serve you by contributing to your ongoing and sustainable success.

What should you be getting rid of in 2011?

Here’s a short list of suggestions.  If you have others, let me know below.

1. Any project or task where the pain of doing it is not well balanced with the ultimate rewards.

2. Clients who don’t like to pay.  Or whose company you don’t enjoy.  Or who take up more than a fair proportion of your time.

3. Unproductive and time-consuming work habits, like constantly checking your emails.  Remember to ask your team to help you identify what’s wasting their time, too.

4. Fixing work that should have been done ‘right’ the first time by someone else.  Either learn to accept their version, or find someone who can and will do it ‘your way’.

5. Lack of clarity about what you should be doing and why.  Take some time to review where you are, where you’re headed and plan how you’ll get there.

Let me know how your garden grows!

Remember our next webinar is on 2 February – ‘Your Flying Start to 2011’ – for tips and tools to keep you on track this year.  Just click here to register.

"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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