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.

17 Oct

Be accountable

Moliere said that, It is not only what we do, but also what we do not do, for which we are accountable. This really resonated with me as I’ve been reflecting for the past couple of days on accountability, and how it can positively or negatively influence your business.

What does that it actually mean to be accountable and what does being accountable look like in today’s business world?

People’s definitions of what accountability is will vary, depending on who they are and where their focuses lie. I have a fairly “old-fashioned” view of personal accountability. When I look at doing business with someone I look at how accountable they are to themselves, their potential and existing customers, and their own businesses. It’s not necessarily the big things that I always look at, but its the small things that matter sometimes.

Accountability rule #1:  Commit to what you say you will do –  So many people are so busy being busy, that one of the first things to fall off the accountability wagon is the ability to follow through on tasks. Remember that your business, which includes you, is constantly on stage and in the public arena for all to see. Your actions or lack of actions show your customers and potential customers how you operate. In order to send the right message such as “Im dependable and not a flake” and to build the right reputation, focus on being accountable for the small things in your business. Answer your emails, follow up on enquiries, return phone calls and arrive at meetings on time. Honestly, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to do that! This doesn’t just show that you are accountable and dependable but it also shows respect and how serious you are about your business.

Accountability rule #2: Accept the consequences for your actions –  When you make an excuse for not completing a task you need to accept the consequences, big or small. Making excuses doesn’t miraculously remove the consequence, your accountability, or the inconvenience for the other party. Therefore if you cannot deliver on a project, don’t just arrive with an excuse and think you are off the hook. Be accountable and be the first person to offer a solution.

In the business world, your customer doesn’t really care about your issues. They don’t want to hear your excuses. They just want their product or service delivered to them at the right time at the right price and in the right condition.

Accountability rule #3: Never pass blame  – This can be a tricky one, especially when someone else has really stuffed up. But passing blame and shining the spot light on someone else’s imperfections makes you look like an amateur. This is where you should bite your tongue and move on. Rise above the situation and focus on solutions instead of excuses, sob stories and drama. Perhaps there is a need to build some safety nets in your business?

Accountability rule #4: Be honest – So the paw-paw has hit the fan, or you are unable to deliver on a project. Drop the ego and be honest about what’s going on. Getting into the habit of making excuses, dodging irate customer calls and passing blame doesn’t serve you and definitely doesn’t boost your reputation with your customers.

Most people in business have the best of intentions when starting out, so don’t let a lack of accountability, responsibility or ownership ruin your chances of building a strong and successful business. Be accountable.

17 Mar

Does your business have a safety net in place?

In today’s working world, independent self-motivated employees want flexibility. They don’t want a drill sergeant dictating to them on the small stuff, such as time keeping, working hours and when to take their tea breaks. That cramps their style, demotivates them and drives them to look around at greener pastures. Gone are the days of employees working in their little grey cubicles from 8:30am to 5:00pm. They require freedom and flexibility in certain areas of the business and in today’s ever-changing environment it makes sense to allow for this extra flexibility.

If you’re granting people freedom though, you should also provide a safety net. The safety net is there to provide your team members with some structure and boundaries. Having this structure prevents you from having to “step in” suddenly to bail out a team member.

So how can you apply this approach? How can you give people freedom to work in the way that suits them, but be there with a safety net all ready to go.

Here are some ways you can build a strong communication platform in your business. Your “safety net” starter kit.

  1. Weekly team meetings – Reporting back to your team on your area of responsibilities every week is key to maintaining a focused and responsible employee. If your team members know that it is not just you their boss that requires feedback, but the team as a whole is counting on them for results it definitely shifts from a “you and I scenario” to an “us” scenario.
  2. Utilise an external coach or apply coaching techniques – Don’t try and solve your team members problems for them. Coach, support and guide them. Get them to come up with their own solutions. This results in them taking ownership and builds motivation. If you are unable to coach them, then engage the services of an extremal coach.
  3. Introduce an accountability buddy system – Pair your team members up. It may be a mentor-team member relationship or a peer-peer relationship.
  4. One-on-one sessions – Depending on the type of job and responsibilities there should always be a time and place to check in. One-on-one time is not a formal event, but a chat over a coffee and a place to discuss the current status (professionally or personally) of your team member. Once a month, once a quarter it’s your decision.
  5. Answer their emails and queries in good time – In most organisations the turnaround time for external customer feedback is immediate. This is good customer service isn’t it? Your team members are your internal customers and they should be presented with the same courteous treatment. By responding in good time shows you care and that they are important to the business.
  6. Business culture – Build a culture were your team feels safe to talk, discuss, debate, challenge and provide feedback about the business goals. Where they feel accountable for their actions.

To build a flexible working culture there is definitely work to be done. Establishing the  correct systems and processes in your business allows you to develop self-motivated, focused and responsible team members.

17 Mar

6 tips on how to make meetings work for you

A day doesn’t go by where I don’t have to attend a meeting. On paper, a meeting is a simple, but brilliant concept. You meet with one or more individuals to discuss a specific topic of interest, everyone provides input on their area of expertise and an outcome is derived from this meeting of minds. Simple? Well, not quite.
There have been many times and I am sure you can relate to this scenario, where I have walked out of a meeting more confused and baffled on the way forward with a specific project, than when I initially went into the meeting. I am sure I’m not the first confused and frustrated individual and I know I will most definitely not be the last.
Here are a few things I have learnt along the way that may help prevent some of that “meeting frustration” you could experience in the future.
  1. Make sure everyone is in the room – virtually and physically. This means no access to electronic devises, which WILL distract people in the meeting. Oddly enough, it seems acceptable these days to be holding a separate meeting on your cellphone or tablet, whilst physically being in a meeting. What is that? I believe that if everyone present in a meeting is “present” on the discussion topics at hand there would be way less confusion and time wastage.
  2. Limit the meeting time – There is always a starting time to a meeting, why not have a pre-confirmed end time? It’s bizarre, but when we are not given a time frame we tend to waft and lose focus, we go off-topic and become distracted and waste precious time. If we are aware of a deadline we tend to treat the meeting like an secret undercover government operation. We know we need to get in, secure the mission objective and get out with no casualties, within a specific time limit. So at your next meet up, hand out the camouflage paint and remind everyone of the meeting time frame and watch how people snap into focus-mode. 
  3. Use meeting agendas and stick to them! – If you are the meeting organiser don’t  just provide a meeting subject line, but attach a simple bullet point agenda of discussion points to your meeting invitations. By providing this additional information people are given time to prepare their notes as well as their mindsets. Most importantly the meeting will begin with a purpose. When facilitating a meeting stick to the agenda points and get to the point. This way people will get to know your meeting facilitation style and will appreciate your focused attention. If you have been invited to attend a meeting and they haven’t provided an agenda, ask for one. 
  4. Make people accountable – One of the biggest pet-peeves about meetings is the lack of action and/or accountability after a meeting. What’s the point of having a meeting if nothing gets actioned afterwards? As the facilitator take notes and assign people and deadline dates to tasks. Placing a name and a deadline to an action, personalises the task and makes people accountable. Generally people don’t like to be in the spotlight for non-performance, this could be quite awkward for them.
  5. Take action – After a full day of meetings the biggest ask for some people is to actually action issues that arose within the meet up. If this is an issue for your team, block off 10 to 15mins in the meeting for people to action or start actioning their tasks. Here you are giving them time and also forcing them to action something. They don’t leave the meeting feeling overwhelmed, but they leave feeling as though they have accomplished something.
  6. Give yourself time – We think we are being productive if we schedule meetings and activities back to back. We run from one agenda to another, never giving ourselves time to reflect and process the information discussed. The next time you schedule a meeting, make sure there is enough time afterwards to process the outcome. Hang up your roller-skates, grab a cup of tea and reflect.