Work-life balance – a phrase we hear all too often. But some people will roll their eyes, put the thought of balance into the “too hard” box and carry on with the juggling act they call life. Sound familiar?
When the topic of work-life balance comes up in a coaching session, and it comes up often, people have a range of opinions. They either believe that it’s too selfish on their part to have a balance in their lives, in other words they are not worthy of balance; or they don’t believe that all components of their life carry equal weight. For example work is seen as more important than spending time with family and friends or exercise.
The funny thing is, is that no one in your life is going to create balance or happiness for you. You have to make it happen for yourself. Stop waiting for permission, stop waiting for someone to make you happy and take control of your own balance and happiness.
Here are two questions I would like you to think about.
- If you had balance in your life, how happy would you be?
- How are your personal goals aligned to your work/business goals?
If you think your life is unbalanced and you are unhappy in your current situation because of this, either working too hard or playing too hard. Think about if you changed your current situation, how happy would you be or how much happier would you be?
We cannot separate our personal lives from our working lives, so are your goals in alignment, or do you try and live two separate lives? How’s that going for you?
One tool which you can use to help you reflect on all areas of your life and to create a starting point for change is the wheel of life. After you have rated yourself on each of the eight areas, think about a goal that you would like to achieve for each of these areas. Let each goal be as important as the next. Then put your thinking cap on and come up with a way to achieve these goals.
Remember, no-one but you is going to create balance for you.
Recently I was asked what my best tip or advice would be around time management. How can one run a business and be effective in managing their time?
There is not just one answer, since it depends on where you are in your business, what systems and processes are in place and how many resources you have.
There are the general tips of prioritising your tasks, delegating and building micro-goals into your routine, but the one piece of advice that really stands out for me is the following in the form of an analogy.
In order to build a strong house, which will withstand all weather conditions you naturally begin by building a strong foundation. Once the foundation has been built you then start with the framework and from there you fill in the detail. I’m no builder, but even to me it makes sense. Building a strong foundation and then moving systematically through and completing one project after the other, makes for good building sense.
So, relating this to business, if you want to spend your time wisely and make sure your business can withstand all “weather conditions”, make sure you have a strong foundation in the business. This would include having the right people in your business, the correct systems and processes, defining an accurate target market and being clear on your product or service offering. Spend time in the very beginning to get these elements right would be building your foundation and framework and then actively put time aside every quarter to review your progress.
Every new project you initiate in your business, from innovation and developing new products and services to on-boarding new employees, make sure the foundations are strong and the support network or framework is in place. Having to re-visit failed projects due to lack of planning and preparation can be incredibly expensive, demotivating, stressful and a complete time waster.
Unfortunately many business owners waste so much time running around in reactive mode putting out fires all day, because the initial foundations and business framework are not in place or are incredibly weak. Having a fancy bathroom or walk-in cupboards can be great, but if the walls of the house are crumbling down, a stand-alone victorian bath can seem pretty useless.
Good time management is about doing the right thing first and making sure you don’t need to keep going back to patch up the errors.
Recruiting new people into your business can be one of the best decisions you make, especially if you are a small business and need additional help or missing specialist skills. Extra hands can take on additional load, alleviate time pressures, help to grow your business and allow you to start working on, instead of in, your business.
If done correctly, it can be the answer to you being able to work a -smarter-not-harder-forty-hour-work-week. But get it wrong and it can be a costly mistake.
Turning your business from a one-man-band into employing staff or contractors will change your business forever. You are not just looking after and directing yourself, you are also directing other people’s actions. You are not just managing a business, but you are managing other people who are managing your business. This changes the dynamics completely, so if you’re not prepared for what comes with a new hire, then think twice about how you will alleviate the pressure or delegate the workload, before you start signing off contracts. Perhaps there is an alternative to hiring?
If you make the decision to hire think about the following:
Reality check # 1 – Direction from day one
New employees or team members want to be told what their areas of responsibility are. This would come in the form of a job description. Yes, you have hired them for the specific skill set, but they still want to be given direction from the beginning. Before hiring a new person, think about what this new role will be doing in the business. Think about the working conditions, roles and responsibilities, how the role’s performance will be measured and what type of contract is needed. Think about how you will manage this role. Then very importantly, hire the person to fit the job requirements and business culture. Don’t randomly hire someone and try and fit the job around the person. You may need to bring in a recruitment expert.
Reality check # 2 – Delegation
Even if you delegate work to your new hire or contractor, you will still need to follow up on their work. You are still responsible for the outcome. Read more about delegation.
Reality check # 3 – Set them up for success
In your head you have a very clear understanding of your business. Its vision, mission and values. You know how you want the world to see you and you know how to communicate to your existing clients and potential clients. If you do not pass this vital information on to your new hire and just assume that they know what to do or “they’ll just pick it up as they go along”, then you are doing your business and your new hire a huge injustice.
Before you bring anyone into your fold, make sure there is a meeting of two minds. Make sure that there is no chance for “assumption” to come into the conversation. Set them up for success, not failure.
This set up would be tackled by developing your own business bible or operations manual. Once this has been compiled, make sure the new hire is actually trained on the information. Test their knowledge. Would you let someone who doesn’t have their driver’s license drive your new car? Probably not, so don’t allow someone who doesn’t have a clear understanding of your business, engage with your clients.
Reality check # 4 – Constant communication
No-one wants to be an annoying micro-manager, but you do need to communicate frequently with your new hire. Assuming that no news from them is good news is a dangerous assumption. Make sure that you have regular check-ins with your new staff members to make sure that you are both reading off the same page. This check-in isn’t just for you to ensure they are in the right direction, but team members want to feel supported and heard. They want to know that they are doing a good job and if required they can seek help with any challenges they may face. They should feel that they can also share new ideas and solutions in the safe space that you have created.
Take the time to set yourself, your business and new recruits up for success. Put in the right systems and process to successfully support the on-boarding of new team members. Do it right the first time, you will not be sorry.
There is no such thing as a silver bullet strategy when it comes to business success , that being one action or activity that will miraculously build a successful business. We all intrinsically know this, but yet, so many business owners set themselves up for failure and disappointment by taking on for example the mindset of, “If I just do this one promotion, then everything will be fine”.
Not to put a damper on your efforts, but sometimes we do need a reality check. One of the key components of achieving one’s goals is that you must be realistic, very simple. If you want to build a sustainable business and avoid being a one hit wonder there are a few key components you will need to ensure are part of your business structure and business ethics.
Vision and mission
Before you excitedly start setting business goals, think about what your long term vision is. What is your ultimate goal and how do you want to be seen in five or ten years time? Once that has been defined then confirm your mission statement.
Completing your business vision/mission statement shouldn’t be done begrudgingly, rushed through or be viewed as an afterthought. Put the time aside to build this part of your business. Why? Your vision and mission are your guiding lights whenever a business decision needs to be made. They keep you focused in good times and very importantly they guide you when times are tough and there will likely be many tough times in your business. Therefore, establishing strong, powerful and bright guiding lights makes good business sense.
Courage, resilience and grit
In my opinion these are probably some of the most important character traits to have when running a business . Having the strength and courage to pick yourself up after failure will turn you into a survivor. If you have the ability to do this, you can achieve anything. These character traits do not always come easily and we are often only asked to prove ourselves when we have already fallen on hard times. No opportunities for test driving these qualities.
To boost these character traits it is advised to have a solid business plan and a business purpose that is true to your values. It can be tricky and extremely demotivating to be courageous if you don’t really believe in your purpose one hundred percent.
Being a business owner is not for the faint-hearted. So make sure you have a good strong pool of people you can call on during the tough times. This can take the form of business partners, family, friends, mentors, coaches or professional networking groups.
Support is also good to have in times of success, sharing your wins with your support network can be extremely rewarding.
Consistency in business builds trust and loyalty with your customers. Whatever your business goals are make sure you are consistent in your delivery, follow through and follow up. Customers will very quickly look elsewhere if you are inconsistent and unreliable.
To make sure you are consistent in your business, always have a plan. Yearly, quarterly, month, weekly and daily. There is much to be said about the saying, “proper planning prevents poor performance”.
Business success will be different for every business, depending on what the end goals are, however one thing that all businesses have in common, is the need to achieve the goals.
So, when you are planning your goals for the year or quarter ahead, also think about these components. Do you have a strong vision? How courageous are you and how would you persevere during tough times? Who is your support network and do you operate your business in a consistent manner? Some food for thought.
About a million years ago, when I was studying at hotel school I learned about and practised the french discipline of ‘mis-en-place’.
Roughly translated it means, “putting in place” or “everything in its place”. This practise is not just a term, but actually a way of life for any chef who wants to have a highly organised, productive and efficient kitchen. To ensure a successful end-result, which would be happy customers eating well prepared dishes, you should always have all of the ingredients, utensils, equipment and staff at the ready before even thinking about starting any cooking.
How does this have anything to do with business you may be thinking? Well, it is extremely relevant and pretty simple. If you want to be successful, to work smarter not harder, you need to be pre-prepared before heading out into the big wide world of business.
In the kitchen these would be the very best fresh produce, meats, dry goods, herbs and spices. Think about why you would go to a restaurant and order a specific dish. Is it because it’s something you cannot create yourself? Is it something not commonly available, so unique, so indulgent that it makes your mouth water just thinking about it, and you know for certain that you just have to order it?
In business, your ingredients would be your products and/or services. Do you believe your products and/or services are unique to your target audience and that the value they add is so good that your customers will return, because they cannot purchase it anywhere else, or that it is so good they just have to have it? If not, what would you need to do to make your products and/or service a high demand item or service?
Equipment and utensils
Depending on the desired end result, the chef could use something as simple as a chef’s knife or as complex as a food processor. It just depends on the need.
In business I would equate this to your systems and processes. Do you believe you have the best procedures and structures in your business to guarantee the best outcomes? Do your processes allow you to work smarter, cut out the unnecessary clutter and provide the customers with the best service?
If not, what would you need to do in order to make this a reality?
A restaurant can have the best location, state of the art equipment and top notch suppliers, but if the staff working in the kitchens as well as in the front of house are unskilled and incompetent you might as well close your doors.
Think about the team members in your business, or if you are a one-man band, think about our own skills and capabilities. Are you able to deliver on what you are promising and not stopping there, what is the self-development plan for the future?
What is the mis-en-place that you need to do in your business to ensure that you are on the road to success?
Imagine this scenario, after years of job-hopping, dabbling in various industries and clock-watching until the end of the work day, you have finally found your calling in life! You have discovered what you were put on this earth to do. Every morning you jump out of bed with great energy and gusto, full of creativity, ideas and solutions, ready to get stuck into work for the day.
The euphoric feeling of loving your work, feeling valued and having the right “fit” is incredible. You feel like you could go on working forever with no sleep as if you were permanently on cloud nine. Herein however lies a problem, if you jump in boots and all, continuing at the same pace and intensity with no boundaries, you may find yourself waking up one day realising that your life is all about your work and nothing else.
If you don’t want to be classified as a workaholic or a “work martyr” and you want to maintain the love for what you do in your work and still maintain some sort of balance, then think about implementing the following guidelines into your day. This way you can have your cake and eat it too.
1. Have beginnings and ends
Have set times every day to start and end your work day. By keeping these time boundaries in place it prevents you from encroaching into your personal time. Sticking to this every day allows you to start building a positive routine into your life.
You may believe that by extending your working hours it will be beneficial to your business, more hours means getting more work done? Actually working more hours does not make us more productive. According to a study completed at Ohio University the human brain needs a 15 minute break after every hour of work. Unfortunately not many people carry out this practise, which results in a decrease in productivity. Interestingly, another study published in 2014 by John Pencavel of Stanford University showed that an employee’s output falls sharply after a 50-hour work-week, and falls off a cliff after 55 hours—so much so that someone who puts in 70 hours produces nothing more with those extra 15 hours. All that is achieved is a waste of time and an increase in your frustration levels.
2. Have daily micro-goals
To-do lists have their place, but one component that is most often missing from this list is a deadline. This can be dangerous especially for someone who is prone to shifting into workaholic mode. To-do lists can go on forever and we tend to keep adding to the list without including deadlines.
So here is a challenge for you. Every day pick 3 micro-goals, tasks which you can achieve in one day. This helps to re-enforce the “beginning and end” concept. Ending the day at a set time, knowing that you have completed the set tasks for that day provides a sense of closure.
3. Have a hobby
It’s not about rushing out and joining a book club or scrapbooking group for the sake of having an interest. It’s about acknowledging the fact that work is not everything. Finding something that inspires you, motivates you, challenges and excites you besides work is key to creating that work-life balance we hear about so often, but don’t always achieve.
Something I learned growing up was “too much of a good thing is not good for you.” A simple principle that has kept me in check over the years. Everything in moderation, that includes work.
You may find the workaholics anonymous assessment helpful if you believe you may be a workaholic.
Throwing stones at tigers, leveraging collective strength, resilience, turning disabilities into abilities, and triumphing against dangerous pirates! These were just a few of the themes from TEDx Auckland 2017 that I was privileged enough to see this past week.
I left the talks feeling invigorated and motivated and gave myself a real talking to on the way home, about not attending more of these inspiring events.
The odd thing is that even if you really love your job as I do, we can very quickly find ourselves stuck in the mundane day-to-day hamster wheel of life and when you look up from the appointments, paperwork and “being busy”, 6 months have passed and you have given your self-development no attention. The saddest part is that you have missed out on these amazing opportunities.
Success is not just about focusing on the business goals, but a huge component of your business success or failure comes from how healthy the mindset of your team is, which includes yourself.
So how do you know if there is a healthy mindset in your organisation? It all comes down to how productive and proactive you and your team are. You can have the most highly motivated team members, but there comes a time in every organisation when people’s enthusiasm starts sliding. How can you combat this?
- Firstly, acknowledging that it is essential to encourage a balance between business development and personal development.
- Talk to your team members and understand the areas they would like to develop. This is not about job skills and competencies, but personal skills and competence. This includes you, by the way. Define the areas you would like to strengthen and explore.
- Set goals and deadlines and define what these “self-development” projects will look like. Will they be books, motivational talks, webinars, courses, workshops, mentorship programmes?
- Write these goals done for yourself and your team members and keep yourself accountable.
- Finally, don’t forget to action it!
We are absolutely spoilt for choice these days. Every where we look there are events taking place, which could add such great value to us personally and to our team. So, lift your head up from your “work”, think about your personal development goals and spend some time researching what’s best for you. You won’t be disappointed.
I was at a networking dinner the other evening and seated next to me was a young lady fresh out of university. Half way through the evening she asked me a really interesting question. “What are the benefits of networking?”
My abbreviated answer to her was, “to connect with people”. She replied by saying that we could do that via social media such as LinkedIn, Facebook and other digital platforms. We didn’t need to waste our time attending functions and physically meeting people, we could very easily connect with people online in the comfort of our own homes (and probably in our pyjamas I thought).
She was partially right and also very wrong for many reasons I believe. These days we are so connected with people around us, but yet we are so very disconnected. People will boldly state that they have over a thousand contacts on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter, but what does that actually mean?
I may be old fashioned, but I believe that face-to-face networking cannot be replaced with online platforms. They should be used in conjunction with face-to-face networking, but never be a replacement. Have we gotten lazy with all of these alternatives?
So what are the benefits of networking? Actually let’s change that and ask, “What are the benefits of good networking?’
Networking in a face-to-face environment makes you focus on a number of key areas, which in turn benefit your business.
- Your mindset – Networking is not about you and how many business cards you can hand out or receive. It’s not about what other people can do for you, but what you can do for others. Going in with a “taker” mindset will set you up for failure right from the beginning, I can promise you that. Try to go in with a “giving” mindset. “How can I help these people?”How does that benefit your business? People like to work with people who care about others. Clients like to know that it’s about them and not about you.
- Your presentation – How you dress and present yourself to the crowd will determine how well you are accepted by the other party. Whether you like it or not, people will start developing an impression of you the minute they see you, even before you open your mouth. Make sure your dress code and non-verbal cues are showcasing the right message about you.How does that benefit your business? Creating good first impressions will start to build trust and eventually loyalty with your potential clients. Remember you are constantly on stage and how you present yourself will either attract new business or have them turn away.
- Your pitch – What’s the first thing that comes out of your mouth when introducing yourself and your business? If you cannot describe your business or the benefits of your business, you lose their attention.How does that benefit your business? Understanding your own business and confidently talking about the benefits, shows your potential client that you are confident, capable and genuinely passionate about what you do. That can be difficult to authentically showcase online.
- Your weaknesses – Attending a networking event can be extremely nerve-racking and overwhelming, especially if you don’t know anyone. Networking pushes you completely outside of your comfort zone into a a world of unknowns. There is no place to hide when attending a networking event, unless you spend the entire time in the loo. There is no screen to hide behind or virtual world to pretend in. Face-to-face networking builds your confidence and can set you apart from your competition if done correctly.How does that benefit your business? Finding ways to grow and develop your own skills and competencies will only benefit your business. The more you stretch yourself the better you become and the stronger your business becomes.
- The follow up – Networking doesn’t end when you leave the event. It has only just begun. What is your follow up strategy after the event? How will you re-inforce that first impression?How does that benefit your business? You start to build your own network of people who you admire, trust and support.
Nothing beats the good old fashioned face-to-face contact. If you want to grow your business and to create an everlasting impression, move away from behind the screen for a few hours and go and enjoy a cup of tea and some canapés with some other human beings. You’ll wonder why you didn’t do it earlier.