Archive for the 'Team Management' Category

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5 Ways to take your business to the next level

Aymane Remmal - www.exponentialprograms.comClimbing the ladder in the business world can be tricky. It takes careful planning and good judgment. In some cases you need to be psychic. But climbing the ladder is not impossible. As long as you are open to learning new lessons then this journey won’t be as tedious. To get your business started, here are five ways you make your business reach the next level.

1. Use your unique selling proposition

This is the factor that you sell as the reason your product or service is better than your competition. But before this can be done, you need to be sold on this reason yourself. Grab a pair of your customer’s shoes and run a mile in them. Ask yourself what do you customers want and need? What are their motivations? Why are they buying specific products over others? This reason is crucial in creating a good sales pitch and you can uncover this information by investing in feedback surveys or market research. Then once the research is done, switch your customer’s shoes for your creativity ones because you need to figure out how to sell this message in a unique way.

2. Be the best in customer service

Psychologically if a customer has a bad experience somewhere they will then take it as their personal mission to save someone else from experiencing the same. Treat every customer with the respect they deserve and cater to their needs. ‘Word of mouth,’ marketing is still the most influential ad in the world. Give them the best experience and this starts by having a good receptionist at the door. Servcorp Executive Suites are one rental office company that values the need of having a good receptionist.

3. Be mindful during hiring and fire away

It wastes expenses and time to train the wrong person. It is more beneficial to have a lengthy hiring process in place than a speedy one. Forget about the pressure to hire quickly and instead redirect this urgency when you let someone go because at the end of the day, you will wish you let them go earlier.

4. Have a good location

Invest in having your office on a good city street with lots of traffic. Make sure your company’s name is displayed on the front door and have a good slogan that sells your unique product or service. Someone is bound to read it in the midst of a traffic jam. Don’t forget to display your contact details.

5. Make your business appeal to the masses

Have a product with a reasonable price for all social classes because when your business seems accessible, you will seem friendlier overall. Remove the intimidation. Classify your services with different levels of offers and then give the customer the opportunity to upgrade after a certain time. You are expanding on their brand loyalty and by then they might not want to waste their time searching for a similar service somewhere else. Also invest in a marketing plan that sells your key message to all.

 

Vacuums and voids

You may be aware of the scientific theory that ‘nature abhors a vacuum’.  In quantum mechanics, it’s referred to as the vacuum state, which basically means there’s no such thing as a vacuum.

Let’s say, for example, that you created some kind of glass container closed off to all physical particles.  From the outside looking in, it would appear as though it was empty.  But really it’s not.  That space, at the very least, contains electromagnetic waves and particles.  If the slightest piercing were to penetrate the container, it would then be filled with air.  And, depending on where the container was located, a slightly larger opening may see it consumed with water or sand or any other substance.

That’s why philosophers like Aristotle have professed that vacuums don’t exist.  As soon as we think that one is there, something instantly fills it up.

Such is the case at work – an environment notorious for the vacuums that arise.  When there’s a vacuum of information, it’s filled with gossip.  When there’s a vacuum of training, it’s filled with mistakes.  When there’s a vacuum of opportunity, it’s filled with disengagement.

If we were to look specifically at new teams (or established teams that have been leaderless for a while), there are four vacuums that are especially present:  structure, knowledge, relationships, and authority.

Structure:  This represents the systems that are in place, the ways in which the team is organised, and the rules that determine how and when the work gets done.  A vacuum of structure is often filled with misguided people.

Knowledge:  This reflects the collective expertise of the employees, an awareness of their developmental gaps, and the principles that influence their decision-making.  A vacuum of knowledge is often filled with costly errors.

Relationships:  This includes the level of trust among the team members, the degree to which they understand each other, and the extent to which they like and respect one another.  A vacuum of relationships is often filled with conflict.

Authority:  This is in relation to the informal power that some employees hold, the credibility of the leader to lead the team, and the ability of the leader to inspire change.  A vacuum of authority is often filled with power struggles.

If you’re a leader taking over a new or leaderless team, it’s important to fill those four vacuums before other (unfavourable) elements infiltrate them.  As the American writer Tennessee Williams wrote figuratively: “A vacuum is a hell of a lot better than some of the stuff that nature replaces it with.”

The trouble, though, is that a vacuum doesn’t last very long.  Or at all.

I’d like to thank Mark Mackenzie of The Graffiti Eaters for this week’s submission. If you come across something valuable like this, please forward it in to me and I will share it with our readers and subscribers and reward you with a few valuable backlinks!

The power of why

Today’s blog post is priceless and timeless. Priceless because it can be life-changing and timeless because it dates back several hundred ago and it remains timely and relevant to this day… This was submitted to me by Mark Mackenzie of The Graffiti Eaters.

When Beethoven was 26, he started to lose his hearing.  It began as a ringing in his ears that got worse and worse until he was almost completely deaf.  It became so bad that the only way he could communicate with his friends was by getting them to write down what they were saying in a book, into which he would write his reply.

Beethoven’s devastation over what was happening led him to live alone in an Austrian town where he spent time contemplating suicide.  And yet he persevered.  In letters penned to his brothers, he wrote that he remained committed to his work because he saw his art as something that had to survive even if it meant enduring the heartache of not hearing his audiences applaud.  “It seemed unthinkable for me to leave the world forever before I had produced all that I felt called upon to produce,” he wrote.

And so, in the face of pain and struggle, he miraculously continued to compose music.  In fact, some of his most brilliant and famous work emerged during the period that his deafness was at its most severe – truly magnificent pieces like his Symphony No. 9.

The reason Beethoven was able to continue so resolutely in the application of his craft can be attributed to the word why.  As is often said, when the why is big enough, the ‘how’ takes care of itself.  In Beethoven’s case, the why was the influence his music had on the world.

The power of why has been proven empirically by psychologists at Ohio State University.  In a number of experiments, researchers discovered that people who considered ‘why’ they performed a challenging task were more likely to persevere with it.  In comparison, those who focused only on ‘how’ to do it were more likely to give up.

So, if you’re trying to get your employees to be committed to a project or to an activity that’s difficult or unenjoyable, or if you’re eager to get their buy-in for an idea or a change that you know they’ll resist, there is rarely anything more urgent than to articulate why.  In particular

  • Why this?
  • Why now?
  • Why them?
  • Why from you?
  • Why in this way?

The why gives people the purpose to follow your vision and it adds meaning to a job that may otherwise be uninteresting. It may be invisible, but the why is what generates the visible.  To those who are feeling uninspired, it is music to their ears.

Overworked? 4 Signs You Need to Recharge

Overworked, Overwhelm, Tired, Fatigue, Stressed OutTake a cue from elite athletes who know how much to train AND avoid overtraining.

Here are four ways to tell you’re about to hit a performance wall.

Sometimes it’s obvious you need a break, but in most cases you’ll figure it out only once it’s too late. When you work double-digit hours during the week with Saturdays and Sundays no longer a reprieve, feeling overworked, stressed out and fatugued can become the new normal.

Even so, you’ll eventually hit a wall and when that happens it can take days and even weeks to recover the enthusiasm, creativity, and motivation you’ve lost. Not to mention the risk of a breakdown or other physical manifestation.

Fortunately a few of the same techniques endurance athletes use to detect the need for additional recovery can be used to indicate when you need to recharge your work batteries.

Where elite athletes are concerned, chronic overtraining can actually defeat the fitness purpose and result in decreased stamina, power and speed. Sometimes after an inlfection point has been reached, the harder they train the slower and/or weaker they get.

The same thing happens to us when we’re overworked at the office, on the job.

Of course we then put in more hours to compensate and get even less done!

So how can you tell the difference between feeling overworked and really overworking yourself?

Here are 4 ways to ensure you stay at your professional best so that you are in peak performance state.

  1. Check your resting heart rate. Every day, before you get out of bed, take your pulse. (There are plenty of free apps that make it easy. Some even log results.) Most of the time your heart rate will stay within a few beats per minute. But when you’re overworked and stressed your body sends more oxygen to your body and brain by increasing your heart rate. (The same thing happens when athletes overtrain and their bodies struggle to recover.) If your heart rate is up in the morning, do whatever it takes to get a little extra rest or sleep that night.
  2. Check your emotions. Having a bad day? Feeling irritable and short-tempered? If you can’t put your finger on a specific reason why, chronic stress and fatigue may have triggered a physiological response and sent more cortisol and less dopamine to your brain. Willing yourself to be in a better mood won’t overcome the impact of chemistry. In extreme cases, the only cure is a break, starting with a good night’s sleep!
  3. Check your weight. Lose or gain more than one percent of body weight from one day to the next and something’s wrong. Maybe yesterday was incredibly stressful and you failed to notice you didn’t eat and drink enough or maybe you failed to notice just how much you actually ate. Lack of nourishment and hydration can impair higher-level mental functions (which may be why when we’re overworked and feeling stressed we instinctively want to perform routine, less complex tasks.) And eating too much food—well, we all know the impact of that.
  4. Check your, um, output. Urine color can indicate a lack of hydration (although sometimes it indicates you created really expensive urine after eating a ton of vitamins your body could not absorb.) The lighter the color the more hydrated you are. Hydration is a good thing. Proper hydration aids the absorption of nutrients and helps increase energy levels. If your urine is darker than usual the cure is simple: Drink a lot of water.

The key is to monitor each of these over a period of time so you develop a feel for what is normal for you.

Pay special attention on weekends and when you take a vacations. If you notice a dramatic change, especially a positive one, that’s a sure sign you need to change your workday routine.

Don’t think this is only for elite athletes. If you want to be the best you can possibly be, no matter what your profession, whenever you slam into the workload wall you are far from our best.

Don’t even think you don’t have the time to take a short break or get a little more sleep. You can’t afford NOT TO.

If you don’t monitor your workload (and stress), eventually your mind and your body will hit a wall and force you to take a much longer break than you can really afford…

So why not avoid the collision in the first place?!?!

The Top 5 Traits of Toxic Teams

Toxic Teams, Toxic People, Low Performance Teams, TeamworkAt one time or another chances are you’ve worked in a Toxic Team

You know what I’m talking about don’t you?

One of those teams where the week feels like this:

MOANday
TEARSday
WASTEday
THIRSTday
FIGHTday

Seriously though, there are some common traits that are alive and well to some degree in all Toxic Teams and the reason I’m giving them to you is because sometimes you’re in a Toxic Team and you don’t even know it!

As human beings we are very good at adapting to our environment so what this means is, we can sometimes not only endure highly stressful or demoralising situations BUT actually trick ourselves into thinking what’s happening is ‘okay’ or ‘normal’.

So here are The Top 5 traits of Toxic Teams you need to know about:

  1. Favouritism – It is very clear to you that there are some people who have somehow been anointed and are part of the ‘in’ group.  These ‘special’ people get preferential treatment, the best performance reviews, the biggest bonuses, taken to lunch with the boss and when they underperform the manager looks the other way.
  2. Snakes in Suits – The manager hardly ever acknowledges you or anyone else in the team for that matter for the great work they do because they’re too busy taking credit for everyone else’s hard work.  You sometimes wonder if the boss even knows your name… The bottom line is, these managers have no time for anyone that cannot further their OWN career and when things go well they’re right there to accept the kudos and when they go badly they’re Missing in Action.
  3. Mind Numbing Meetings – You dread the meetings and will do anything to get out of them because they’re disorganised, start late, always run over time, are dominated by grandstanders, no one ever follows through on agreed action items and last but not least… They’re BOOOOOOOOOOORING!!!!!!!!
  4. The Mirror Treatment – “We’ll look into it.”  You know this one don’t you?  Every time you need something fixed, need some action taken or waiting to hear the outcome of an important decision you get that famous throwaway line, “We’ll look into it.”  Funnily enough these are the same managers that invite your suggestions or feedback for improvement only to ignore them!  Sometimes there’s even a nice little box where you can put your comments… Just to give you a bit of false hope that things may change.
  5. The YES Man (or woman) – If you’re working for a YES Man it’s excruciatingly frustrating!  They won’t make a decision, they’re always REACTIVE because of poor planning, you don’t know if you’re coming or going due to constantly changing priorities and you end up with work from other departments because your boss CAN’T SAY NO.

Now the good news…

If you’re stuck in a Toxic Team, there is a way out – outperform and outproduce your way out of it!

Seriously.

I mean that – if you can totally outperform your toxic team members, someone who come and snatch you away – either another department of better yet – a headhunter (recruiter)!

The key is to document what you’re doing so you have PROOF of your PERFORMANCE and results and making sure it’s as public and noticeable as possible – so the interested parties who are searching for talent can find you.

Some bad news…

Chances are if your team’s toxic, there’s not much you can do to change it – you want to LEAVE it as quickly as possible, either within the same organisation or another company.

Toxic Teams are like cancer – once they infiltrate their way in, there’s almost no chemotherapy available to eradicate it.

Sorry, but that’s the truth.

Inverview Tip: How To Prevent The Bad Hire

Let’s face it – no one enjoys interviews. They’re awkward, stressful and time consuming. In many (but not all) hiring cases, they’re a necessity.

This cartoon is a funny example to illustrate how you can create a memorable interview that reveals if the person you want to hire is right for the job. It’s both a metaphor as well as a practical example. In this instance it’s appropriate if you’re hiring for a position that requires the person to be able to read instructions, have manual dexterity and patience!

Interview Question, How To Interview, Interview Tip

When I was in the printing industry, I had 3 or 4 specific tasks I would give a candidate at the first interview. All the tasks were designed to weed out the inexperienced or unskilled who “oversold” their abilities by revealing their deficiencies.

For example, I would ask them to open a ream of paper – if they proceeded to peel open the wrapping paper, I would stop them and end the interview.

I would ask them to stack a pile of a few hundred A4 sheets that had been collated, but were not neatly stacked. (There is a specific strategy to do this.)

These are revelatory and instantly assessable – they are pass/fail with no grey area for misinterpretation.

Every industry, profession, trade or process has tell-tale habits and techniques that you can use to quickly assess a person’s skills, abilities and aptitudes.

Ideally, you create 3 or 4 to ensure that the analysis is multi-dimensional. In my case, I had 4 tasks and a candidate had to pass 3 out of 4 to continue to the second, short list interview.

I worked for an IT company that had a technical proficiency test that you had to get 17 out of 20 to proceed to a second interview. PhDs would often struggle, obtain a score of 15 or 16 and would be rejected – to their utter bewilderment.

A process is a process and if it works to acquire the skills, aptitudes and capabilities you’re looking for – stick with it!

Of course there are thousands of personality and behavioural tests that can complement this approach, but that’s a discussion for another blog post!

Willpower

I have mixed feelings about willpower and it’s importance in goal setting and achievement. The main reason is that if you have a clearly articulated goal, outcome or dream you want to achieve that really excites you, you don’t need any willpower to get it done.

Willpower to me is an excuse for impotent goal setters.

Without exciting goals you would need willpower to get motivated.

Willpower, Discipline, Concentration Of Focus

For example, I don’t smoke. It takes no willpower for me to avoid picking up a cigarette, cigar or pipe. The same is true for overeating. I value my vitality, health and wellbeing so much that I don’t overeat or abuse alcohol or other ‘substances’.

If you’re struggling with willpower and are trying to harness more of it – you’re probably heading in the wrong direction.

Focus on your goals, dreams and aspirations instead.

When you do, you’ll find an unquenchable thirst for achievement that will create relentless enthusiasm within you and you’ll be of the same point of view that willpower has no place in genuine and authentic achievement that is congruent with your life’s purpose.

Give it some serious thought the next time you think you’re lacking in willpower – or when you see someone with very little of it.

Share these thoughts with them because that’s what someone did with me when I was a teenager and it changed my life and perspective forever.

Workaholism Infographic

Workaholic, Stressed Out, Overwhelm, Helplessness, Depression

Engineers and motivation

Motivation is one of the many subjects we discussed at the recent 1 Day Mini MBA event in Sydney. The list below is interesting because it dovetails into the discussion we had concerning motivational factors versus what Dr Herzberg refers to as hygiene factors (which can only serve to demotivate).

Most managers don’t understand the difference between simple concepts like this which is why they can be so ineffective as so-called leaders, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Today, I wanted to share with you a recent poll done by The Australia Wide Personnel group on LinkedIn.

Here is how engineering candidates ranked the 7 most important factors when considering a new job that was sent to me by Ray Keefe, one of our multi-award winning clients (and an engineer).

The  7 most important factors engineers consider
when assessing a new job offer

  1. Work which requires imagination
  2. Challenge of the role
  3. Work environment
  4. Salary & benefits
  5. Employer’s reputation
  6. Flexible work arrangements
  7. Location

What do you think of the list?

Is it accurate or just what researchers want to hear?

Be careful when asking for staff feedback

Most management consultants promote asking for staff or employee feedback. You might want to re-think that advice after reading the responses obtained at an airline repair division. Remember, it takes a college degree to fly a plane but only a high school diploma to fix one.

After every flight, Qantas pilots fill out a form, called a ‘Gripe Sheet’ which tells mechanics about problems with the aircraft. The mechanics correct the problems; document their repairs on the form, and then pilots review the Gripe Sheets before the next flight.

Never let it be said that ground crews lack a sense of humour.

Here are some actual maintenance complaints submitted by Qantas pilots (marked with a P) and the solutions recorded (marked with an S) by maintenance engineers.

By the way, Qantas is the only major airline that has never, ever, had a fatal accident.

P: Left inside main tyre almost needs replacement.
S: Almost replaced left inside main tyre.

P: Test flight OK, except auto-land very rough.
S: Auto-land not installed on this aircraft.

P: Something loose in cockpit.
S: Something tightened in cockpit.

P: Dead bugs on windshield.
S: Live bugs on back-order.

P: Autopilot in altitude-hold mode produces a 200 feet per minute descent.
S: Cannot reproduce problem on ground.

P: Evidence of leak on right main landing gear.
S: Evidence removed.

P: DME volume unbelievably loud.
S: DME volume set to more believable level.

P: Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick.
S: That’s what friction locks are for.

P: IFF inoperative in OFF mode.
S: IFF always inoperative in OFF mode.

P: Suspected crack in windshield.
S: Suspect you’re right.

P: Number 3 engine missing.
S: Engine found on right wing after brief search.

P: Aircraft handles funny.
S: Aircraft warned to straighten up, fly right, and be serious.

P: Target radar hums.
S: Reprogrammed target radar with lyrics.

P: Mouse in cockpit.
S: Cat installed.

P: Noise coming from under instrument panel. Sounds like a midget pounding on something with a hammer.
S: Took hammer away from midget.