27 Feb

Who’s in charge, who’s responsible? Anybody?

A great little story I would like to share with you.

This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have.

This may be confusing, but the point of this story is that if we don’t have a clear understanding of what we, our business partners and team members are responsible and accountable for in the business, we land up looking like everybody, somebody, anybody and nobody. We look incompetent not only with each other, but also with our customers and potential customers. Not a good look for business.

I have come across this situation in a number of small businesses. The business starts off as a one man or woman band and a job description doesn’t seem to be too important at the time, as they are doing everything themselves. Gradually over time the business starts to grow and employees or a business partner are brought in to work in the business. “Everyone” assumes that “everyone” knows their job and what they are responsible and accountable for. Well, not actually.

To prevent confusion, frustration and conflict, follow these guidelines:

  1. Ensure that everyone in the business has a job description. Even the boss.
  2. Ensure that each job description is a clear breakdown of main areas of responsibilities, reporting lines and expected behaviour. To ensure buy-in from the beginning ensure that you involve each person in the design of their own job description.
  3. When on-boarding a new employee or contractor, take them through their job description, don’t assume that they have read it. Explain each area of responsibility, so there is no confusion.
  4. Ensure you have an accountability system built into your job descriptions. Every person working in the business, should be held accountable for their tasks, even the boss. Some may even link performance bonuses and rewards to task completion.
  5. The job description is a working document. It should be regularly updated as the job grows and changes.
  6. Accountability check-ins should be consistent. This can be achieved through regular meetings, one-to-one sessions or reporting.

Don’t let something as simple as not knowing who’s doing what to cause you to look incompetent in front of your customers. Provide your team and yourself with peace of mind, get your job descriptions sorted.

31 Jan

Something to think about when setting goals for the new year

It’s a new year and you’re likely either extremely focused on planning and executing your fresh New Year’s resolutions. Or you don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions and roll your eyes when you hear people talking about their new fitness goals for the year.

Either way, if you want to achieve anything in life or business you do need to set goals. Whenever you are in the goal setting mode, it can be easy to gravitate to tasks or projects that you like doing more than other tasks, or ignore areas of your life that don’t register as important to you. So here is a challenge for you. Instead of focusing on only one area, think about creating goals for yourself that cover the following three areas.

  1. Business Strategy: A new year for your business could mean one of two things. Continuing as per usual or taking the time to step back, reflect on the past year’s goals and results and actively altering your plans and measurements accordingly. Personally I would recommend the latter. This is not just a good practise for you as a business owner, but an excellent re-focus for your team members. Reminding everyone about the business vision and what your key objectives for the year are.
    • Have you set time aside to work on your plan for the year? If not, when will you do it?
    • Once you’ve completed the plan, how will you ensure that it doesn’t land up in the bin?
    • What do you need to do in your business to make this plan continuously visible?
  2. Self Development: When last did you read a book or sign up for a course, which would ultimately not just grow and develop you, but also add enormous value to your business? Reality check, the business world is evolving so fast that we need to continuously develop ourselves so we are not left behind. 
    • In your yearly goals and plans, what will you be doing to develop yourself? This could take the shape of reading a book on business practises, taking a financial literacy course, attend a social media conference or sign up for a certificate, diploma or MBA. Go on, pick something and book it in. 
  3. Self care: Learning to put work aside to take time for yourself, is probably one of the toughest things for many business owners  to achieve. Self care, like self development can take on many shapes, but it is something to seriously consider including in your yearly plan. It may be starting a new hobby, or joining a weekly yoga class. Whatever this looks like for you, stop thinking about it and just do it! 

Instead of getting to the end of this year feeling burnt out, frustrated and regretting what you haven’t achieved. Take charge now and ensure that you are incorporating all areas into your plans. 

22 Nov

When do leaders show their true colours?

Dr John Kotter said the following, “Always think of crises as potential opportunities, and not only dreadful problems that automatically must be delegated to the damage control specialist. A crisis can be your friend.” 

What does this have to do with leadership? Everything!

Anyone can be a great leader when times are good, when everyone is behaving and doing their jobs, where money is been made and business targets are been reached. What happens when things aren’t going well? What is the leadership style like in your business during times of strive and crisis?

This is where the leaders true colours come out.

Think about a recent situation where you have faced adversity in your business, where the paw-paw has hit the fan. How did you manage your behaviour?  If you approached the situation like a total hero and swooped in and saved the day, then kudos to you! If you didn’t, then think about implementing the following strategies the next time you are hit with a curve ball.

  1. Stop. Think, breath, gather information and then react. Instantly responding to a situation can make things worse. Get into the habit of stepping back and gathering information before reacting. Giving yourself a small window of time to process the situation from all angles, allows for a more objective reaction.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”  – Viktor E. Frankl

2. Be a curious leader, not a blame-shifting leading. Curiosity is objective. It shows your team that you are genuinely interested in discovering the reasons for the undesired outcomes. This automatically puts people at ease and they too start thinking objectively. It becomes a fact-finding discovery and solution focused session, not a witch hunt.

“Blame is just a lazy person’s way of making sense of chaos.” – Douglas Coupland

3. Always think about what’s best for the business. The solution is not about what’s best for  you, but what’s best for the company as a whole.

“Leadership is not about the next election, it’s about the next generation.”  – Simon Sinek

4. Don’t delegate from the sidelines, be part of the solution. Involve your team to build a solution and then take action with them.

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” – John C. Maxwell 

5. As a leader you should be thinking about the future and how to make the business vision a reality, but you should also be in the rhythm of constantly reviewing and checking what’s happened in the past and what the reality of your current situation is. This allows you and your team to be agile and ready to implement change at the earliest possible opportunity.

“One of the tests of leadership is the ability to recognise a problem before it becomes an emergency. “- Arnold H. Glasow

As leaders we are always learning, developing and growing in our craft. The only way we can become better is by actively choosing to change how we tackle certain situations. What   are your true colours?

23 Oct

Communication hacks – 5 tips on how to navigate through the mine field of communication

Have you ever had a conversation with someone to then discover at a later stage that what you had said in that conversation was completely misconstrued?

Why does miscommunication happen? Well there are a number of reasons, but one of the biggest reasons to consider is how each of us filters information. At any given moment, we are subconsciously sorting through a huge amount of  data, more so these days with so many communication platforms continuously bombarding us with information. Some information we ignore and dump and some of it we take on board. This selection process or filtering system, which is  made up of our past experiences, belief system, culture and values to name a few, helps us process information and make sense of what’s happening around us.

So the next time you have a conversation with someone, remember you aren’t just talking to John or Jane, but you are communicating with a person who communicates through their own unique filter system. Their past and more recent history, their current state of mind, their mood. Here are a few communication hacks you can use to help you.

#1 – The onus is on you to ensure that what you are saying is being received correctly. Therefore, stating your case in a conversation and not considering the other person’s questions or opinion is a quick and certain entry into communication purgatory.

  • Allow for two way communication. Ask open ended questions, such as “How did you feel about that?” or “What do you think?” Probe them respectfully for their opinion not just for their blessing.

#2 – Ensure that the person you want to communicate with is ready for you. Trying to have a conversation with someone who is visibly distracted or busy is not going to end well.

  • If possible send them an agenda of what you want to discuss, prior to the conversation. This way they are able to prepare for you and get their “head in the game”.

#3 – Consider your own mood, body language and tone of voice. Are you ready and prepared for the conversation? Depending on the topic, perhaps you may need to re-schedule?

  • A good habit to get into before any meeting is to take a minute or more if you can spare to declutter your mind. Step into a quite space, close your eyes, breathe and concentrate on what’s ahead.

#4 – Speak in their language. Choose words, phrases, examples that they can relate to. Don’t use jargon words, technical words or speak in acronyms! They wouldn’t understand, nobody understands at the best of times. Remember it may be easier for you, but it’s not about you so just don’t do it.

#5 – Follow up. A simple action, but so seldom executed. This is either in person or in writing. Think of it as your safety net. It helps you to clarify your main discussion points, possible solutions, required actions and deadlines. Making sure everyone is “on the same page”.

Lastly, and probably the most important piece of advise. Always reflect on your past communication engagements. What went right, what went wrong? How can you repeat doing the things that work and what do you need to do to improve on the weaknesses.

27 Sep

Why you need to prioritise your goals

A few years ago I wanted to shed a few kilos, and get fit for a cycling holiday. Piece of pie I thought. I would be incredibly disciplined, focus on both goals and pull this off in no time. Unfortunately, reality hit when my dietician at the time informed me that I should be prioritising. Lose weight or get fit, which one would I like to achieve first?

This principle can be applied to business too. Think about your main business goals. Have you prioritized them or are you trying to provide equal focus and attention on all of them at the same time?

The problem with not prioritising is that there is a risk of objectives clashing with each other. This could result in time being wasted in decision making, internal conflict, employees getting frustrated or confused and you land up not achieving anything.

Say you have selected four or five main objectives for the year, and increasing sales and product innovation are two of them. Before drawing up your action plans you should confirm how your resources will be split up to achieve these objectives. You likely have funding constraints and therefore resources must be allocated strategically. So should you focus on increasing your sales first, or will you place the focus on research and development for product innovation?

If you decide that innovation is your first focus, you will acknowledge that sales growth will need to come in at second place. Why? Your resources, such as money, time and people will be directed to innovation and development. Not to say that sales growth is not important, but by clarifying which objectives take priority and therefore the bulk of the resources, it ensures that everyone is reading off the same page. This in turn allows for your team to have laser focused attention for the selected timeframe, which saves time, money and relationships.

Define your objectives, clarify their importance, develop your action plans and assign your resources.

30 Aug

The difference between training and coaching

The other day a friend mentioned that his business had brought in a training company to conduct some personal development programs with their staff. He commented that he was a little bit disappointed due to the fact that the trainer didn’t conduct any follow up after the training was completed.

Firstly let me say that I love hearing that businesses are investing in their teams, especially on personal development and soft skills training. I wish more businesses would do this.

Secondly, my response to him was as follows: That’s the difference between training and coaching. Quite simple.

So many businesses will do one or the other, but very seldom both. To get maximum return on your training investment, both disciplines, training and coaching need to be taking place within your business.

Training is all about teaching or introducing new concepts or skills. It doesn’t or very seldom alters the training delegate’s behaviour. They learn something new which can tweak their curiosity, but then the training ends and they go home. Perhaps there may be some altered behaviour change for a week or so after the training has taken place, but on the whole, most people will go back to their old habits.

To counteract this and to really get bang for buck I would highly recommend that coaching is introduced straight after every training initiative. Coaching is the safety net or the catalyst for change. The new skills are taught in training and the coaching is there to help reinforce these new skills after the training has taken place.

Naturally human beings find it very difficult to change a habit or implement a newly learnt skill straight away. It is even harder when that change is completed in isolation or not supported. We need help to stay on track and keep focused. This is the role of the coach.

A coach is there to help you define your habit change and then to support you through the change process.

To really set your team up for success, by all means give them the opportunity to attend training sessions, but then make coaching available to them afterwards.

Let them reinforce their newly learnt skills over time so they can then add the right value back into your business.

16 Aug

Coaching is not a swear word!

“I would like you to coach some of my team members, but I don’t want anyone to know”.  Wow, was my first reaction when I heard this from a manager last week. Besides my initial  surprise this request also made me feel sad.

I liken this kind of request to Richie McCaw doing an under the table deal with his head coach for coaching received or Usain Bolt carrying out undercover sprint coaching in the dead of night, so no one would know. Should I add a dark cloak, dark glasses and large brimmed hats to my business attire?

What is wrong with openly acknowledging the fact that you or your team members need help to improve?

I look at many of my clients and I see bright, intelligent and driven human beings who  want more out of their lives, jobs or businesses. They are prepared to look at their challenges and creatively think of ways to overcome the hurdles in their lives. It takes a special kind of person to do this inner reflection and coaching should therefore be celebrated, not hidden away as if it were a dirty secret.

Unfortunately this attitude is entrenched into the culture of many  businesses. There is an underlying expectation that every employee needs to be a specialist in all disciplines and heaven help you if you ask for help.

I am sure there are many reasons for this mindset, but I can honestly say it’s not helping anyone. By ignoring the need for coaching it causes frustration for both the team member and the business. Instead of employees growing within a business through coaching and training, they get frustrated and leave.

Think about your own team or colleagues. What would coaching do for them or what could it do for you? If coaching was part of your company culture, how would your business benefit?

 

 

25 Jul

Reasons why you don’t always reach your goals

Stopping smoking, losing weight or improving your time management. These are common examples of goals we set ourselves from time to time, with many coincidentally being set with great pomp, ceremony and champagne around about the beginning of the year. New Year’s resolutions we call them. We convince ourselves that change needs to take place as a new year rolls around. A new year, a new me! For some this may be what’s required to get moving and achieve the desired results, but for most these “new goals” fizzle out within the first two weeks of the year and everything goes back to normal with the idea of improving ones time management being a dark and distant memory.

So what went wrong? Firstly, goal setting shouldn’t be controlled by the time of the year. If you want to achieve something start doing it as soon as possible. Stop waiting for the new year, a new moon or the next leap year to make things happen. Waiting causes you to lose momentum and motivation and procrastination starts kicking in. Secondly, setting a goal and just doing it, is not always as straight forward as we think. The secret to achieving a goal is understanding that your habits and behaviours need to change first. As an example, to achieve the goal of improving your time management, stop thinking about being a time management king/queen. Instead, start thinking about the following;

  1. What habits/behaviours are  currently preventing you from achieving this goal?
  • Going to bed too late and waking up late.
  • Saying yes to every request that comes your way
  • Not keeping a consistent diary

2. What habit, from the above list can you change right now?

  • Setting an earlier bed time or setting the alarm to wake up earlier.
  • Before saying yes, check what tasks and priorities are currently needing your attention. Then say yes, if you can manage it or get into the habit of saying no.
  • Start using a diary.

These are simple habit or behaviour changes. It’s about focusing on changing just that one habit and making it a part of your everyday life, making it a norm. Once the habit has been altered for the better you, can move onto the next habit-changing task. Very soon, you will  realise that you are actually achieving your main goal. Successful goal achievement is not about big wins, it is about understanding what habits or behaviours are holding you back, and figuring out the best way to change them.

28 Jun

Selecting and developing future leaders in your organisation

What is your organisation’s leadership development acceleration plan? What programme is your business establishing to ensure that you capture the right talent to grow and develop the future leaders of your business?
I recently spoke on this topic at a leadership summit. My focus however was on the developing and grooming of future leaders as opposed to the selection of potential future leaders.
The reason for this is quite simple. Businesses can spend a huge amount of time, energy and money on selecting the right people with the right leadership traits and experience, but what happens to them when they arrive in your business? As Jim Rohn so aptly said   “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”, so it is quite obvious  that these new future leaders will not be operating in a bubble. On the contrary, they will be constantly interacting with their team members and colleagues.
So let’s paint the picture. These new leaders of the future come into the business with their own set of traits, but they are also unavoidably adopting new traits as they engage with other employees, customers and suppliers. This could be very beneficial for their development and the future of the business if they were being exposed to sought-after leadership traits from their working environment, or it could destroy all of the hard work and effort that was spent on the initial selection process if they are constantly being bombarded by undesirable behaviours.
So before you spend time and money on expensive assessment models and recruitment services, think about the existing people and culture of the business. Think about who these future leaders will be spending their time with and evaluate those people’s leadership and management abilities.
Also, where do you stand with your leadership traits? The long list of non-negotiable traits which have been set out in the future leaders job description, how well do you match up to them?
It’s about accepting that future leaders will not function in silos and that the people they are permanently working with within your organisation will influence their behaviour and belief system in some shape or form. Besides building a future leadership programme spend time on your existing team members and the future leaders supervisors. Build their skills and capabilities, build their soft skills and build their leadership skills. Adopting the mindset that everyone within the business has the ability to grow and develop themselves is your first win.
Create an environment in your business that will nurture your future leaders, not chew them up and spit them out at the first chance it gets.
31 May

Can you coach your subordinates?

Quite simple, the answer is no you cannot coach your subordinates. Why, you may ask?

A coaching relationship is seen as an equal partnership between two people and unfortunately whichever way you dress it up, you and your subordinates within the business environment are not equal parties. You are their boss.

It is therefore recommended that you take on a mentorship role, which is the type of relationship which works extremely well in this type of situation as the mentor’s job is to impart their knowledge, experience and learnings onto a less experienced mentee. The relationship is equal in respect, but not in status.

If however you want your team members to engage in a positive and impactful coaching experience then you must accept that you are not the right person for the job and that a colleague from another department or an external coach should be earmarked for the job.

You may have the most genuine of intentions to enter the coaching relationship completely open, unbiased and non-judgemental. You may even verbalise this genuine intent to your subordinates. However, a positive, trusting coaching relationship starts with the coachee feeling completely free to talk about their own experiences, feelings and goals and unfortunately doing this with their boss is not a winning formula. In their eyes, you are not an equal or an unbiased objective voice. They see you as the boss, the person who completes their performance appraisal. The person who they seek advice and guidance from during challenging times. You may merge some coaching techniques into your management style, which is extremely commendable, but it doesn’t make for a coaching relationship.

You may disagree, so for arguments sake let’s turn this scenario around and answer these questions.
1) How comfortable would you feel if you were being coached by your boss?
2) How truthful would you be about how you felt if you were coached by your boss?
3) How would you feel about your relationship with your boss outside of the coaching relationship? Would you be able to draw a clear line between boss and coach?
4) How truthful would you be in the coaching session, if your boss was your coach?

Remember, coaching is not about what you or the business wants for the coachee or what you think is best for the coachee. It’s about them and what they want. Doing what’s best for them, may just include the option of bringing in an external coach.