Tag Archives: vision

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

Are you heading in the right direction?

terminating employment

Occasionally, it’s good to know you are on the right path…

This email we received from a consultant using Harrison Assessments Career Navigator System (CNS) demonstrates the power in knowing you are heading in the right direction:

A colleague in her mid-twenties who worked opposite me has for quite a while thought that she would like to be a nurse. All she really knew is that she didn’t enjoy working in this job, behind a computer all day every day because it didn’t give her a sense of doing something meaningful. But she didn’t know what else to do. A few weeks before Christmas she used the Harrison Career Navigator, and surprise, surprise, it listed nursing as something she would be really good at. She moved into high gear, enrolled at university to do a nursing degree, resigned from her job, moved a lot closer to the university, and has already begun preparing for the next three years of study. What’s inspiring is that she was willing to sacrifice her income and live another three years as a poor, struggling student in order to do what she loves.

Another friend suffered a major mental health issue and had to be hospitalised for a month. The crisis was brought on by issues related to work, and on leaving hospital she knew she couldn’t keep working in that area, but had no idea what else she could do. She did the assessment, which amongst other things recommended she work in a post office. It so happens her old job also managed a post office, and so she moved into the new role. She now loves what she does, finds work a lot less stressful and her health has really improved (so much so she’s returned to full time work).

A colleague who is successful in her current career but a little bored has been increasingly wondering, ‘Now what?’ She jumped at the opportunity to do the assessment, which confirmed that she would be well suited to being a doctor, something she had contemplated before. She is now seriously considering whether to give up her current work and pursue a career in the medical field. It would be a very long road for her, but immensely rewarding. I’m betting she’ll go for it!

I guess I can also add my own story to the list. I’ve known for a long while that I really want to work in the areas of counselling, coaching and training, which I love, but have often doubted whether I have what it takes to make it in that area. Doing the Harrison Career Development Assessment gave me a huge boost in confidence, confirming that I would be well suited to all three and that they would give me the sense of doing something meaningful that I’ve lacked in my career so far. And even more than that, it even more specifically identified that I would be particularly suited to career and relationship counselling, and adult education training, which I have really enjoyed in my education. So it was a great confirmation that I am on track and has helped give me the confidence and motivation to push on. Exciting times ahead!

What difference has direction – or lack of direction – made in your life?

Click here to get sample reports.

To find out more about how you can help your clients find their direction with Harrison Assessments’ Career Navigator, click here.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Giving back

This is how we give back, as told by Ted Schellenberg of B1G1

Tell us your story of giving below.

We all seem to lose our balance every now and then, as we go about our lives. Luckily we often find a way to ‘right ourselves’ quickly, because we just seem to know, instinctively, what has to be done – less of this, more of that – to regain our balance. However, keeping the right balance at work can be a little more difficult, as somebody else is usually making the decisions there!

Enter Susan Rochester of Sydney, Australia. Susan believes that everyone has the right to be happy at work – including the boss. Her company offers a suite of online surveys that help managers to hire right the first time, to lead with confidence and to create a motivational culture.

With a name like ‘Balance at Work‘, we’ve always known that work is about a lot more than just making money,” Susan told us. “We were inspired to join B1G1 when we heard Chairman Paul Dunn speak here in Sydney. Such a simple and effective way for Balance at Work to ‘give back’ was really appealing to us. We particularly liked that we could link our contributions to B1G1 with our work with clients.

Their company website proclaims that “The Right Balance Delivers the Best Result”, and to get the best results from their giving program, Susan’s team took a page from their own company playbook – sitting down and spending time co-ordinating and balancing their contributions.

Each of the projects we contribute to is linked to a service we sell,” she says, “And those B1G1 projects are often relevant to that service. Over the time we’ve been a B1G1 partner, we’ve selected projects involving primary, computer and workforce education, microcredit, life coaching, meals and the environment!

We’ve found B1G1 makes giving more of a regular habit. B1G1 keeps us informed and makes it easy to share the concept with our clients.

Growing a business is hard work, and Susan told us that the B1G1 program helps that happen in a very balanced way: “Knowing that as our business grows we are able to help even more people to have a better life helps to make it worth the effort!

We are all capable of so much more than we think, and that’s especially true when it comes to global giving through B1G1. It really does give you a nice balance at work and in life!

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

Three steps to successful collaborations

new employees

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

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

The results are in! Thank you for your feedback

A few weeks ago, we asked for reader feedback on our weekly e-newsletter.  Here is a summary of what our readers had to say:

1. How often do you read the updates?

60% read the newsletter frequently or always and 32% read it sometimes.

  • As a small (one man) business I welcome any opportunity to interact with new ideas and curent thinking in my area of operation.
  • Time available determines if I read it immediately and then interest in topic. I know whatever you write will be good stuff  Susan.
  • It is fun to read and you never know what you are going to get from them – generally I can take a little bit of something from each newsletter.
  • I try to read most of them, however, get very busy. I always have a quick glance. I save most copies so I can retrieve when needed.
  • Unfortunately, work load means that I sometimes do not read the newsletters in detail., I do keep them as I see them very useful not only for me but also staff training.
  • Enjoy it

2. How relevant do you find the information in the newsletter?

18% found the content very relevant and 68% thought it was somewhat relevant.

  • Obviously there will never be 100% correlation between my current projects and the information in the newsletter but it always provides some stimulus for my thinking.
  • They are mostly relevant and can be adapted to my circumstances.

3. What is your overall satisfaction with the newsletter?

Very satisfied – 39%, somewhat satisfied – 43% and neutral 18%.

  • Very happy to receive these newsletters.
  • Interesting and relevant information that is in just the right length to read.

4. What can we do to improve?

  • Nothing, and love the way you’ve used this survey.
  • That’s a good question!
  • Keep it to monthly frequency and focus on time and money saving advice.
  • Give me more time in the day.
  • More input from other people.
  • I find most of them very relevant.
  • Send it by snail mail.
  • Would be good to pick on some national themes- dealing with disasters or families week or awards and recognitions, etc.

5. What would you like to see in future newsletters?

  • Some experiences from other small business sources as per the invite in Q.5 above.
  • Real life Stories – and especially about the way your services have benefitted a client.
  • Business tips including marketing, sales and admin as well as time and money saving advice.
  • Successful marketing ideas.
  • Much of the same for now.
  • Overcoming toxic people.
  • What do you do when you’ve appointed the wrong person?
  • More real life stories from people in business. (I know that is a little hypocritical as I don’t have time to provide any content.)

In addition to the above responses, a total of 15 generous people said they would definitely or maybe like to provide content for future newsletters.  Thank you, if this was you! We will be in touch with each of you individually to see what we can arrange.

We appreciate everyone who took the time to respond to our survey.  It is reassuring to know we are doing some things right and we can now act on your input to make the weekly updates even more relevant and useful to you.  If you missed the survey, don’t let that stop you from giving us feedback anytime!

Not a subscriber yet?

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.

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

How will 2011 be different for you?

In the previous update, I encouraged you to take a look at what you’d achieved in 2010.  Many readers were pleasantly surprised!

It can be very empowering to put aside the everyday demands on your time and reflect on what’s going well – and not so well.  As you prepare to have a brilliant 2011, this is a good time to take stock of what you would like to change in the new year.

One of the simplest ways to do this is to grab a notebook and write down your regular tasks, performance standards and behaviours under the following categories:

  1. Should be doing less
  2. Could be doing more
  3. Want to stop doing
  4. Would like to start doing

With this list, you now have a starting point for planning 2011.  Already, you have guide to what your goals for the year might be.

To help you refine your goals for maximum business impact and to keep you on track to achieving them, consider engaging a coach.  I find having someone to listen, guide and keep me accountable is invaluable.

You will be more successful working with a coach you know, like and trust.

Here are some questions to ask prospective coaches:

  • What experience to they have? Length of time coaching, industries, types of organisations, specific issues.
  • How is the coaching structured? What tools and methods do they use?  How do they measure progress? Are there alternative programs to meet your individual needs?
  • Is the coaching CPD accredited? Coaching could contribute to your annual CPD point requirements.
  • Who else have you worked with? Ask for the contact details of previous clients.

If all the boxes are ticked and you feel positive about working with the coach, 2011 could be your best year yet!

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.

"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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