27 Aug

Essential skills every manager needs

What would you say if I told you that the flight you are taking abroad will be piloted by a new pilot who only has theoretical knowledge about flying a plane? Or that the back operation you will be having, will be completed by a surgeon with only theoretical knowledge?

I’m going to to take a wild guess and assume that your reaction will be far from favourable. Would it change your mind if I said that we should give the pilot and surgeon a chance and that they will learn as they go?

Probably not.

Yes, there are glaringly obvious gaps. Lack of practical skills and competencies. It would be unheard of for people to be placed in these positions with a lack of specialist skills.

So why is it that businesses promote individuals into management and or leadership positions without people or management skills? Unfortunately this type of practise has become a norm in business, where the newly appointed employee is expected to fumble and bumble their way through things. “Don’t worry, they will learn as the go! “ Why is this seen as acceptable? Not a great set up for that specific individual, the team they are suppose to be supporting, or the customers who are exposed to the employee’s frustrations though bad service and inferior products.

You may point out that you cannot compared a pilot or a surgeon’s lack of skills to a managers lack of people and/or leadership skills. Well, besides the imminent life or death part, you absolutely can compare it. 

Business success is built on the business goals being achieved by the people working in the business. If people don’t perform, business fails – simple. 
Survey after survey will tell you that people don’t leave companies, they leave managers. Companies spend thousands of dollars every year on recruiting, re-training, re-structuring trying to build successful, productive teams. What would the recruitment bill look like or the employee retention ratio be, if more focus was placed on promoting people and leadership skills?

Employees want and need to be treated and managed correctly, which develops engaged and motivated team members, which in turn is what builds trust, loyalty and retention.

So if you don’t want your business or department to crash and burn or bleed out on the operating table, think about your people skills and how you manage your team!

If you need some help, join the Leadership Coaching Series. a 3-month intensive distance coaching programme, to help build your leadership skills and competencies.

31 Jul

What is your tipping point for change?

Meet Bob. Bob has an unhealthy, stressful life and lifestyle. He don’t eat properly, he drinks too much, he smokes, doesn’t exercise and doesn’t get enough sleep at night. He has a high pressured job, which results in working long hours with no real downtime. Bob is an unhappy guy!

Bob most probably understands that this type of lifestyle is unsustainable and will probably end badly. So why doesn’t Bob change? Why does you stay in his unhealthy comfort zone?

I find this truly fascinating, as this “tipping point” for change will be different for everyone. What’s interesting is that it’s not that Bob doesn’t know the benefits of making changes, and to aggravate the situation he  gets told by his family and friends all the time. “Bob, you should take better care of yourself!” 

It’s not the why you should change, it’s the when and what that are so important. When will Bob reach his tipping point and what will cause him to change?

Will it take a near-death experience for Bob to make the life altering decision to change his ways or will he experience an epiphany one day?

Depending on our age and stage in life, there is a little bit of Bob in all of use. Just for a moment, stand back and look at your life from the outside. What are you not happy with? What are you tolerating? What do you know needs to change, but you haven’t made the leap? Will your tipping point be an external trigger, something you cannot control or will it be your decision and actions which will drive the change?

Think about what your life would be like if you actually made that change? How much better, happier, satisfied would you be?

Then define what you need in order to make this change happen? No one is going to do it for you – what is your tipping point?

28 Jun

5 key points on how to maintain positive corporate culture

Peter Drucker tells us that, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast!” Quite simply, if your team is not engaged and is not willing to implement your business strategy, then you are fighting a losing battle. 

So how do you ensure your business culture is working towards driving the strategy and not eating it for breakfast?

Here are some pointers:

  1. Together with your team, define the culture you want to see and experience in your business. Culture is a living breathing element and should be given it’s own personal characteristics. For example your culture is inclusive, kind, fair and responsible. These could also be aligned to your companies values. 
  2. No one is bigger than the culture! This means that everyone must align themselves to the culture. No exceptions to the rule. For example, everyone greets visitors coming into the office, including the boss. A small gesture, but a powerful reflection of the business. 
  3. Hire for culture fit, not just for experience. You may be interested in hiring a dynamic sales and marketing manager for the business. They have years of experience and have worked for top performing companies all over the world. However, when they arrive for the interview, they are incredibly rude and dismissive to the receptionist. Do you think that that person will fit into your company culture and if they did start working for you, how would their behaviour affect the team culture? Ensure that culture fit is at the top of your interview and assessment criteria form. If ruthless and rude are what you are going for, then hire them on the spot!
  4. Everyone is responsible for maintaining the culture. If the team are vigilant and aware of the characteristics of the culture and the business values are on a daily basis consistently front and centre, then maintaining the culture is easy. However, if habits and behaviours not reflecting the business culture and values are allowed space and fester in the workplace without been checked, then by the time you are aware of what’s going on, you sit with a toxic culture. 
  5. Leaders drive culture. Yes, everyone is responsible for maintaining the culture. However, the business owner/managers/ leaders in the business are the key drivers. Remember, your team follows your lead and whatever behaviour and habits you condone will become norms in your business. You cannot delegate your role in culture maintenance, you are responsible at all times. 

Your business culture is developing and evolving on its own, every day, with cultural norms becoming embedded into the workplace wether you like it or not. Are you happy with the results or do you need to make change? 

31 May

It’s not just about the qualifications! – What it takes to be the leader

The other day I asked some of my coaching students “What do you think it takes to be the leader and to run a successful business?”.

Many of them said that the leader needed to be knowledgeable in all areas of business so that they would have the confidence to make the final and sometimes tricky decisions. The need for higher education and business experience also ranked very high.

I agree with this line of thought to some extent. Yes, they must be competent in business, however I have met many business owners who have acquired plenty of letters behind their names and yet they battle with being good leaders.

Why is that? Because it’s not just about the qualifications. I suggest that you consider these other factors as well:

1. Personal factors – Before you can start working on and improving a business, you need to be able to work on and improve yourself. The leader is never and should never be immune to critical review and change. How self-aware are you? How resilient are you to honest feedback and failure? An old boss of mine used to say that the crazier a situation got, the calmer you should be. I love that, as it encapsulates exactly what a leader should be in times of crisis. Rudyard Kipling said it best, 

“ If you can keep your head when about you

 Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,           

 If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,         

    But make allowance for their doubting too!”

        How well do you keep your head?

2. Leadership factors – Here are three factors that should be non-negotiable for all business leaders.

A good leader should have a leadership mindset, which is always focused on the business vision and how the team will achieve it.  What is your business vision and is it at the forefront of your action plans?

A good leader will never ask what’s best for them or a specific individual in the business. They will and should always ask, “what’s best for the business?”  

A good leader actively develops professional working relationships with all levels of employees within the business. Showing genuine interest and care in the team builds loyalty. Remember the old saying, that people don’t quit a job, they quit a boss. Wise leaders know that business success is not achieved without loyalty, buy-in and teamwork from everyone in the business.

3. Support factors – A good leader cannot operate successfully in a silo. They need a team of experts around them to be able to jump in and deliver when the leader calls on them.

How well do you know your team’s individual talents and expertise?

Besides your team, who else can you call upon to help you? As a leader you don’t need to be an expert in everything. You need to be able to put your ego aside and admit that you need guidance. That is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Don’t be short-sighted, its not just about the qualifications.

25 Apr

What is your competitive advantage?

When I ask business owners “What is your competitive advantage?” they are very quick to provide a long list including their pricing structure, advanced technology or the quality of their raw materials. These are all good and well, but it is seldom that I hear them highlight their people as a competitive advantage in their business. 
Why is that? Why do business owners overlook probably one of the most important assets in their business? 

Perhaps it’s because working with human beings is damn hard work and if not managed correctly, employees can hinder business process and business success. However if you treat, respect and manage you team well and look upon them as an asset, it can be one of the best things you could do for your business. High-performing, focused and motivated employees can be an exceptionally difficult resource to imitate. This allows your business to stand out in the crowd and yes, good company culture attracts positive clients. 

So how do you move your human resources, your employees from just being a resource in your business, or filling up a seat, to actually performing and living up to the position’s and business’s expectations? How do you get the most out of your team so they can be seen as a sustainable competitive advantage?
Gallup has provided us with the statistics that only 15% of the global workforce is engaged at work. Just imagine if you could increase this percentage. What would that do for you and your business? What would happen if you started treated your people like key assets, how would that change their attitudes and engagement levels? 

Well, firstly it starts with you. Understanding your role as a business owners. You are the visionary, whether you like it or not. You are the main driver in your business. You are not just working in the buisness anymore, you are working on the business, guiding, directing, disciplining and coaching your team. Yes, that is your job.

Secondly, understanding that your human being plan is as or even more important than your marketing and financial plans. Without incredible people working to their optimum, you can market your business until the sun don’t shine and you will get nowhere. It’s a mindset change. Think people first. How can you get them engaged, focused and loving their jobs. This will only motivate them to work harder and smarter for you and the business. Then move to your marketing plan. 

If your team is not currently a competitive advantage in your business, you are missing out. What do you need to change to make this happen? 

29 Mar

Are you a good boss?

According to Gallup, only 15% of the world’s one billion full-time workers are engaged at work. Let’s just stop and think about that for a moment. 85% of people are not engaged at work. Due to this disengagement, we often see destructive, bullying behaviour in the workplace or hear of employees talking negatively about their company to friends and family. Not a good result.

While you are thinking about the 15%, think about the loss of productivity and the amount of time wasted. It is staggering.

This article also points out the following; Employees everywhere don’t necessarily hate the company or organisation they work for as much as they do their boss. Employees — especially the stars — join a company and then quit their manager (Clifton, 2017).

This reminds me of the quote from Marcus Buckingham who said “people don’t leave bad companies, they leave bad managers’

You can see the theme I am going for here. As a manager, business owner or leader you are responsible for your team’s performance. But gone are the days of the autocratic management style and the sadly facilitated performance reviews, (which never worked anyway) or the “my way or the highway” approach. So, how do you manage your team’s performance without taking on this archaic approach?

Communication. Simple. To help improve your communication with your team, think about the following:

  1. How often do you communicate with your team? Do you talk at them or with them?
  2. How often do you honestly listen to what they are saying, or take note of what they are not saying? Providing them with 100% of your attention? No devices to distract your attention.
  3. How often do you shift employee appointments for other “more important” meetings?
  4. Think of each one of your employees and rate your professional relationship with them from 1 to 10. Do you know if they have children? Who are their favourite sports teams, their favourite foods? What do you need to improve on in this area? Building trust with your team members starts with building relationships.
  5. Are you are aware of their different personality traits and what motivates them? We are all unique and therefore need to be managed differently.
  6. How often do you let them make the final decision?
  7. How often to you reward and recognise them?

This list could go on, but I need to end this post. The moral of the story is that your employees are the most important people in your business. Instead of just agreeing with this statement, action it. Show them that they are important by changing your attitude and behaviour towards them. Walk the talk!

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. 

26 Apr

What it takes to be a Leader

Throughout history there have been some exceptional leaders, Ghandi, Churchill, and Nelson Mandela are a few that come to mind. All these great leaders have stood out over the decades and have mastered the art of leading a group of people, where in some circumstances have had to lead in the most harrowing of circumstances. What was the reason that people chose to follow these great leaders?

There has been extensive research completed by many universities and organisations over the years to try and pinpoint what exactly are the traits or qualities of a good leader. The research has apparently come back inconclusive. As you can guess, every exceptional leader who has stood out in a crowd has come with a different background, value system, experiences and character. Unfortunately there is no such thing as one neat little set of leadership traits. If you had to compare Ghandi and Churchill, these two men were polar opposites in their leadership styles, even missing a few key leadership traits some would say. However, they are still regarded as great leaders of our time.

There are however two traits that do rise above the countless leadership traits that we see on personal development lists and job description requirements and those two are as follows.

  1. Good leaders have the ability to adapt to their circumstances: A leader is someone who can assess and acknowledge the environment for what it is. Expecting the environment to be perfect for their unique requirements would be an impossible ask. Good leaders can evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of a situation as well as identify future opportunities.  Never wishing what could be, but knowing what the results will be into the future. Good leaders truly believe in the vision themselves, so much so that their passion and motivation for achieving their vision shines through in all that they do.
  2. Good leaders understand the need for building relationships: Leaders understand that in order to reach the ultimate vision they need the people around them to firstly buy into that vision. Once that has happened only then can action plans be  executed.

How do you get people to follow you or buy into the vision? Well, this could be the place where some of the other important traits come in. Good leaders know that it’s not about spitting out orders and expecting results. It’s ultimately about building relationships. What are some of the characteristics of a strong relationship? What should a good leader be practising everyday?

  • Respect: Earning respect from the team by practising active listening, being accountable for one’s actions, practising what they preach and  stepping up and leading from the front.
  • Empathy: Taking the time to understand the team and how they view the situation. Considering their feedback and suggestions to make them feel part of the process.
  • Loyalty: Being honest and open with the team builds loyalty and trust.
  • Treating everyone as unique: Good leaders take the time to get to know the individual team members. Their style, strengths, challenges, personal goals and dreams. The leader will help each team member to grow, develop and reach personal goals whilst working towards the business vision.

Do you have these leadership traits? If not, what do you need to do to develop them?