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. 

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.