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.

05 Apr

What comes after success?

What comes after success? What happens after you’ve achieved your first big goal?
The meaning of business success will always be unique for everyone. We are all aiming for different goals with different focuses, which is what makes my job so interesting. But what happens after you have reached your unique success?
Do you have a plan for how to maintain this success or haven’t you thought about this yet?
I believe we spend too much time thinking about the journey to success, the marketing, client acquisition, brand awareness, and not enough time on what happens after that. We tend to focus on the chase, the fun, exciting and sexy tasks in the business and don’t often think about what will be required of us after we’ve built the brand or secured some clients. What comes next? Is the plan to sit around patting yourself on the back, or building a sustainable and successful business?
So whilst you are plotting world domination, think about the following and perhaps plan for these before you conquer the world or at least do this at the same time.
1. Your role: What will your role look like once you have reached your goals? Will you still be working as passionately in the business or could you delegate or outsource certain responsibilities? It’s like climbing a staircase, every time you reach a new step your observation point changes. A new set of goals would need a new focus. Business owners often find themselves “stuck” or stagnating in the same role, often due to lack of direction. I like to call it “ground-hog day syndrome”. This complacent manner is not very healthy for the business owner or business growth, moral and business culture. To prevent this stuck feeling, plan the next step or start thinking about the next step, the next goal now before you even reach your initial goal.
2. Your team: Your people plan – what does that look like? If you’re a one-man band you may decide either to expand, to hire new team members or to stay on your own. Think about your team now (if you have one, or imagine one ). What would the perfect organogram be in your business? Before you can take on a new role you should define your people strategy. Teams also need to be guided, motivated, managed and lead. What is your current skill set around these key characteristics? Start defining your skills needs, and build that into your planning. It’s all about being proactive and being in control of the plan instead of being reactive and spending your precious time putting out fires.
3. Your product/service: These would always be evolving and adapting to your current and future market. In order to be ahead of the game, what is your innovation plan? Whilst working on and delivering the current  product/service offering there should always be an on-going product/service evaluation. What’s going well, what’s needing an update? What are your customers asking for? Looking externally at various issues and how they could affect your offering, such as environmental, political, social, economic, legislative and technological factors.
4. Your processes and systems: Think about the perfect system(s) you could implement into your business. Systems that would streamline your workload, improve your time management, communications and overall help to maintain your business structure. You may not be aware of these systems or even able to afford these systems right now, but could you budget for them and do some best practise research? Always begin with the end in mind, think about what it needs to look like and plan towards that vision.
This is an example of working on your business, not just in your business. Taking the time to future proof your business. Take a look at the following checklist, which can help you identify areas which you would need to focus on to ensure you are building a sustainable business. Future proofing your business checklist
16 Feb

Preparing your business for new hires

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.

20 Oct

5 ways to improve mental health in the workplace

A couple of weeks ago I attended a Leadership seminar and one of the speakers was Jimi Hunt. Besides being responsible for constructing the worlds biggest water slide, sailing a lilo down the Waikato and simply enjoying doing random stuff, he is also an advocate of increasing mental health awareness.

What does mental health mean, why did it get my attention and why would it have such relevance within the business world? According to the World Health Organisation,  “Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”

Looking at the world today, it is obsessed with physical health and wellness. Being fit, looking good and eating well. People have become far more open with admitting they are “unfit” or “eat badly” and on the receiving side people are more forgiving if they hear someone admit their unhealthy physical lifestyle status. This type of compassion and understanding displayed for physical health issues is not at the same level as that exhibited for mental health issues. Therefore, people don’t readily admit they are battling mentally, for fear of being told they are lazy, that they can’t handle the pressure or being alienated by their colleagues.  Therefore most people will rather remain silent, resign, become a disrupter or a disengaged employee, rather than admit to having mental health issues.

So think about your own mental health and then take a look at the people around you. How open and honest are you or the people that you work with about your own personal mental health and wellness?

What do your employee turnover figures and absenteeism statistics look like?

When your team members are at work how productive are they? Are they reaching their weekly and monthly targets and goals or do you have a case of presenteeism in your business? Your team are physically there, but not mentally focused and productive. Like a team of rowers without any oars. Completely useless.

To help with improving your team’s mental health, think about implementing the following into your business:

  1. One-on-one coaching initiatives
    • This allows for specific, measurable, realistic and attainable goals to be set and delivered at an agreed upon deadline.
    • The team member is then in control of their own goals and work flow
    • coaching provides a non-judgemental space for the team member to share their concerns and to then create and work through an action plan to improve their situation. By just allowing the team members to have a place to share, bounce off ideas and to “think” out loud will greatly assist in improving their mental health and well being.
  2. Creating  an “it’s okay to take a break” culture. Encourage your team to take their lunch breaks away from their work, to engage in mindfulness practises or any other relaxing and energy rejuvenating activity.
  3. Can you business allow for flexitime? In todays world this type of arrangement would positively assist the drive for attaining work/life balance.
  4. Improve communication within the workplace. Work off one strategic plan, one set of goals and one set of values. If everyone is singing off the same hymn sheet it dramatically lowers confusion amongst your team members, eliminates mixed messages and lowers frustration and anxiety levels.
  5. Understand that you have human beings in your business. They are not robots. Your team members have dreams, aspirations and feelings. Get to know them, learn to listen to them. Show your appreciation towards them and aim to build a strong corporate culture where mental health awareness is as important as the company athletics day.

Want to engage an external coach to work with your team. Contact me nicole@tikumu.co.nz for assistance.

13 Dec

How much do you invest in your business?

When I think business, I think people. Why? Well in order to have a business or even a successful business it first needs people to add value, before value can be provided to  clients.  Without people or without the right people, there is no business.

So let’s rephrase our initial question. How much do you invest in your people?

When this question gets asked, so many people assume that it refers to a financial investment and their eyes glaze over and the common answer is, “We don’t have the budget right now!”

So, if you don’t have the budget, does it mean that you cannot invest in your people?

The funny thing is often employees are not always wanting the financial reward. Don’t get me wrong, extra money is great, but its not the only thing. Employees actually want other “investments” from you their employer.

Investment #1 – They want to be treated as  equals

Why did you hire your employees? You hired them to do a job, which you couldn’t or didn’t want to do. If you hired them correctly then they would be an expert in that specific field. You might be the boss, but they are the expert. They know the right way and the wrong way to achieve certain outcomes. They need you to take their opinions, recommendations and advice seriously. They need you to listen to them. Not to patronise them, but to engage with them as equals and show them that you appreciate the value that they are adding.

How can you achieve this? Be present. Focus 100% of your attention on them and what they are saying. Being distracted and impatient in their presence can be perceived as showing a lack of interest and these specialists might will lose interest and move on.

By treating your people as equals you are including them. You are sending out a message that they are not just working in your business, but they are collaborating with you and working on building the business. They become instrumental in the business success.

Investment # 2 – They want to be developed

Good people will continuously look for challenges, growth and development. They are always wanting to improve their skills. If they are stuck in the same role they get bored and start looking for greener pastures.

People development can be achieved by in-house or external training, mentorship programmes and coaching initiatives. You can even ask your employees where they want to focus their growth and how this development will align to their current or future position within the business. You might be surprised with what you hear?

Investment # 3 – They want regular communication

This doesn’t have to be a formal sit down session. It can be a 10 minute chat  over a cup of coffee. The conversation doesn’t even have to be about work, it can be about family, personal interests or even the weather. That small investment of your time goes a long way to proving you are actually approachable. Regular conversations, regular engagements and regular contact is key to building loyal team members and strong employee relations.

Investment # 4 – They want recognition

People want to know they have done a good job. It doesn’t matter who you are or what position you fill, everyone wants to hear “Well done! Great Job!” every now and again.

When last did you compliment your people for a job well done? You may find the following article interesting – Thank you!

Investment # 5 – They want responsibility

Good employees are people who want to be able to make decisions. If you demand that all decisions are passed through you first, then expect for your good people to leave.

By providing your people with the business vision, mission and values they are able to align their decisions to these business fundamentals when the need arises.

Allow your people to feel accountable for their positions and their decisions. By following this practise, you are not only developing your team, but you are building their confidence, their self-esteem and their loyalty to your business.