03 Nov

Bullying or wearing blinkers?

If you were in New Zealand in the 80s then you may recall the “unfortunate experiment” which cast a very dark shadow over the National Women’s Hospital at that time. Last week I attended an incredibly inspirational talk by Dr Ron Jones, author of Doctors in Denial: The forgotten women of the unfortunate experiment, which spoke about the doctors and women involved. It is a painful reminder of what happens when people in power allow their egos to get in the way of sound judgement and good decision making. This “experiment” caused thousands of women to lose their lives from cancer that could have been cured. Dr Jones was one of the very few whistle blowers in this story and it is his mission in life, aside from a tribute to the women who passed away in this experiment, to educate New Zealanders about the truth of this outrageous and very preventable disaster.
Dr Jones’ story highlighted a number of characters who played significant roles in this experiment and at some point it sounded more like a horror fairytale than a true event. As Dr Jones spoke I realised that the characters he referred to in this story are also ones that we are all very familiar with and may engage with in our work and personal lives on an ongoing basis. Two main characters really stood out for me.
1) The “EGO character” – Dr Jones spoke of two main individuals in his story who were driving this experiment from the beginning. He called them bullies. Bullies with big egos are probably the most dangerous and destructive character trait I can think of. It doesn’t matter how wrong these people are, they will always dig their heels in and never admit failure. For these people self-preservation will always trump the will to be honest and prevent others from suffering.
2) The “BLINKERS character” – The blinker wearers in Dr Jones’ story, were highly qualified, world renowned and respected individuals at the peak of their careers. They did absolutely nothing, except turn a blind eye to what was going on. By not getting involved they allowed the bullies to take over.
So what can we learn from this horrific story? What can we do to prevent this type of behaviour from sneaking into our lives?
One thing that I have learned over the years, is that it is not about trying to control other people’s behaviours. It’s all about being aware of our own behaviours and controlling how we portray ourselves in the world. Learning from these stereotypical character traits will not just help us become better human beings, but by having a strong self-awareness it will positively influence our immediate environment and the people around us. Lead by example and keep the following in mind.
1) No one is perfect, we all make mistakes. Learn to be humble.
2) Never let your ego get in the way and cause you to develop tunnel vision.
3) It’s okay to be wrong and to admit your failure.
4) Use your voice and stand up against bullies when others cannot.
5) Leaders are responsible and accountable for their teams.
To be safe, how can we double-check that we are not turning into bullies or blinkers? We can learn to develop “self-checking-in” systems. Just like jumping on a scale to check on our weight, we can jump on the self-awareness scale and actively check behaviours and habits by asking ourselves questions, or if need be, ask a trusted colleague or friend to provide some honest feedback.
1) Did I listen to the other party?
2) The decisions that I am making, do they align to my business values?
3) Am I respectful in my approach?
4) Do I display ethical behaviour?
5) Will the decision that I am making benefit my business or just my personal needs and desires?
 These lessons are not new and we hear these statements all the time, but how often do you really apply these lessons? Perhaps today is a good time to start.
27 Apr

Do you have the right people in the right seats?

A question which has stuck in my head forever, thanks to an old boss of mine, “Do you have the right people, in the right seats on the bus?” has over the past couple of weeks come up in conversation with quite a few of my clients.
This is a powerful question because it makes you step back and view your business from a completely different angle. It’s not about the products or services or the systems you use. It’s purely about the people that you have, if they are the right fit for your business and if they are performing their duties as per expectations. A rather sobering question if you ask me.
The teams which function in our businesses are extremely important. You already know that as a business owner or operator, ultimately your team are the ones that make things happen. They are the ones who make the business come alive. They are the ones who represent the brand to the outside world.
With this in mind there are four key areas I would like to raise and possibly get you thinking about  when you start evaluating the “seating arrangements” on your own bus.
1) Skills and capabilities – every person in your team has a set of unique skills and capabilities, hence the reason for why you hired them in the first place. If you took a snap shot of your business as it currently stands, is every person within your organisation playing towards their strengths and focusing their attention on your business objectives or has their focus shifted?
Teams function well when they are able to get to know their fellow team mates and over time with some commitment from all parties, your goal is that trust starts to blossom. One ingredient which is key to the trust recipe is having a consistent core group of team members with very little unscheduled shifting of positions and people as possible.  As a business owner how do you maintain that core team? In today’s business world we are all aware of how easy it is to “jump ship”. People are often looking for greener pastures. What talent management process to you have in place or people development programme?
2) Emotional intelligence – When you evaluate your team members, instead of only measuring them on their ability to complete their tasks, it pays to measure their emotional intelligence levels as well. They may be highly skilled individuals, but if they have very little self and social awareness, or minimal ability to  self-manage, then they could be more of a hindrance in your business than an advantage. The beauty however about emotional intelligence is that it can be learned.
3) Values – It is said that people are guided by their own personal values, goals and needs first before they actively drive any business goals. With this in mind, do your team members share your business values? Are you aware of team members individual personal values?  Would it not be best to share in a common set of values and beliefs than to struggle with constant internal conflict with your team members?
4) Motivation and passion – Sticking with the bus analogy, you could call motivation the  the fuel of the business. Having a busload of highly skilled, emotional intelligent individuals is any business owners dream. However if these individuals don’t put fuel in the tank, the bus is going nowhere. Same for your business, if your team members aren’t motivated to drive the business goals forward, your business is going no where.
Internal motivation is key and when recruiting the right people should be a non-negotiable, but how are you as the business owner or operator motivating your team members?
With these four areas as a benchmark, how does your current seating arrangement look?
02 Mar

Your Business Cannot Run on Auto-Pilot

The other day I was sitting in a cafe, enjoying a cup of tea and finishing off some work. And watching the staff at work. Well, not quite.

The female server had decided it would be a good idea to fix up her appearance. So she had laid out her make up and hair equipment on the serving counter and proceeded to, with the assistance of the stainless steel coffee machine as her make-shift mirror, apply eyeliner, blush and a few other bits and pieces. Once all the brushes and paraphernalia were packed away she then started on her hair. While she was doing this she was chatting rather loudly to a fellow server behind the counter, oblivious to the world.

As I watched this play out in front of me, I looked around the cafe. Some of the tables were dirty. The chairs were not placed neatly and there was rubbish lying on the floors.

What’s wrong with this picture?

As I sat there wondering if there were any makeup products in my tea, I wondered how many other businesses are run like this? The obvious lack of self-awareness and self-management on behalf of the employees, and a lack of management, controls, procedures and systems. I wondered if this cafe would ever be as successful as it could be.

If you have your own business then don’t ever believe it can run successfully on auto-pilot. Why would you invest in a business and then not be involved?

Most people are in business to make money, and the customer/client is an important part of this financial success. Here are a few things to think about:

  1. If you are not able to be in the business everyday, then who is taking care of it? Who is looking after the customers/clients? Do you have a responsible manager in charge?
    1. Is this manager aware of the business standards and their position’s roles and responsibilities?
    2. How will you measure their performance?
  2. Are your team members aware of their roles, responsibilities and the business goals?
  3. Do you have a disciplinary code of conduct? What you can and cannot do in the business?
  4. When will you be checking in on the business? How would this be carried out?
  5. What external resources can you use to measure the businesse’s performance?
  6. Do you have an employee induction programme and training programme?
  7. Do you interview and hire your employees to fit your business culture?

To stay on track, meet and exceed your customers expectations and to be successful you need to include the correct oversight in your business.

21 Apr

Are you Bob?

“When Bob has a problem with everyone, the problem is generally not everyone. The problem is Bob!”

Sometimes people say things that resonate with you so intensely that the lesson stays with you for years to come. I once had a boss who often made the “Bob” statement. His way of confirming someone’s lack of good social awareness and the inability to play nice in a team environment. Whenever I heard him saying it, it always made me more conscious of my own actions and interactions. It made me reflect on and consider my own behaviour.

Being able to step back and objectively see yourself warts and all, as others may see you can be a little bit uncomfortable. But, then to acknowledge your “warts” and take responsibility for how your behaviour has directly affected someone, can be exceptionally difficult.

If you succeed in developing and strengthening your emotional intelligence the benefits are not just for your own personal growth, but it improves the longevity and quality of your relationships with your colleagues and customers.  Strong, trusting professional relationships can only strengthen your business by building motivated productive team members, and increasing your employee retention.

If you think you may be a “Bob” and may be alienating your colleagues and team members with your behaviour, start by asking yourself the following. Both questions have been inspired by Stephen R. Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. 

  1. Do you listen to understand first, before trying to be understood? The next time you have a conversation with one of your colleagues, try not to steamroll  through your point or opinion at the beginning of the conversation. Stop and let them speak first. Actively try and understand what they are saying to you.  By being conscious of this, it will hopefully prevent you from paying them lip service and assuming what they are trying to say before they actually say it.
  2. Do you think win-win? This is not High School. It’s not about whoever wins the race gets the prize. If you really want to win in the business world you need to think smarter. The next time you go into a discussion, go in with the mindset of team collaboration. Think how the the discussion outcomes can be mutually beneficial to all parties. You may need to stretch your thinking and consider options which you have never considered before. Be curious. Remember, its not always about you.

If you think you may be a “Bob”  and need assistance. Contact Nicole at nicole@tikumu.co.nz for professional business coaching.