JENNIFER GUTWENGERJennifer Gutwenger is Principal Consultant at #HR and draws upon aseasoned background and credentials in corporate HR, deep workingknowledge of best practice and an inclination to muse. She is the driver of#HR’s game-changing service offerings and the principal generator of itsunique content and thought leadersh...ip.Jennifer is an author at Smallville and writes for the Chamber of Commerceand Industry QLD – platforms where top professionals share their ideas,advice and knowledge with business owners and entrepreneurs everywhere. More

How to be a Successful Entrepreneur in 3 Easy Ways

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Taking the helm of any business is a leap of faith and a little like strapping yourself in for a roller coaster ride. As you head up the first rise born aloft on a stream of ideas and energy, you feel the wind in your hair and the euphoria of healthy business growth.

Cameron Herold, business coach to successful entrepreneurs calls this the ‘uninformed optimism’ stage – when you’re bursting with excitement, aware there are challenges ahead, but not really able to see what’s beyond that first big rise. A tower of terror or a smooth cruise to early success?   

As you continue to round corners and defy the force of gravity, it can turn out to be a wilder ride than you anticipated. Sure you get to enjoy the euphoric highs. But you’ve got to endure the lows as well.

These twisters can come at you right out of the blue. The moments when you revisit the high start-up costs against the low early revenue. The days when programming or development efforts are unproductive. The time when your partner’s positivity is on the wane and it’s up to you to keep things on the up.

On days like this it’s hard to visualise a smooth road ahead. Clear thinking is gone with the wind. You’re pinned to your seat, paralysed and screaming all the way down.

The way Herold tells it, the roller coaster of entrepreneurism has a one-way ticket and there’s no getting off. And how you weather the highs and lows will determine your success.

So let’s talk strategy:

 

1. BREATHE 

Grab the safety rails and remember the basics. When your mind is whirling with misgivings, your anxiety levels are heightened too. This affects your ability to make smart choices.  So take time out for a breather. A walk in the park, pounding it out with boxing gloves - whatever your chosen medium is. All the science shows that connecting with nature and taking a short burst of exercise are essential for resetting that mind, reducing stress and staying healthy.

It helps you reconnect with your inner adventurer – the one that got you started on this voyage.

When your calm, centred-self returns, revaluate any decisions you made. Make sure they were meaningful, sensible and insightful. The secret to weathering the ups and downs is staying on track.

 


2. CONNECT

With your feelings.  Strange advice for a business owner? Not so. Understanding your feelings and being ready for them when you round a corner and see what’s ahead, is essential. 

Talk to your team, partner, spouse. Identify the scary moments, and be open to feedback about managing them. Bring people inside the volcano and get them to support you. You’ll find out who’s got the strengths to last the distance, and ultimately, it will build resilience in those around you.

Herold asserts that highly driven episodes are a normal part of the entrepreneurial journey – they drive growth and makes things happen.  However, times like this must be managed efficiently and used to an advantage, or crisis is unavoidable.  

 

3. JOIN A FORUM

The feeling that you’re ultimately alone on your journey is one familiar to many entrepreneurs. Share those moments with like-minded individuals and you offset the force-of-gravity vulnerability this loneliness can turn into.

Choose the right forum – one that’s less about advice and more about sharing experiences on the road travelled. Mo Fathelbab, angel investor, corporate culture advisor and Founder of the Forum Resources Network, believes that forums are an important tool in dispelling feelings of isolation and learning from your peers.

Forums connect you with people you can confide in, trust and turn to. If direction is what you need, they can link you with services - legal, financial, planning and support.  These can help you put the brakes on or accelerate as required - reducing risk and guess work, getting the pivotal business moments right.

Membership is generally free, so this becomes a cost neutral exercise with big impact!

And when you get back in the front seat, keep in mind that the thrills and spills are part of the ride. It’s a blast one moment, and a dead-stop the next. Your responses will help you stay on track.

Surround yourself with people who can help you tame the beast, and keep your strategy fixed in place. That way, whether you’re racing downhill, pulling out of a lull, or cresting a rise, you’ll stay in motion.

Then put your hands in the air and wave! Because it’s all about enjoying the journey.

 

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How to Manage Stress in the Office in Two Easy Ways

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The cut and thrust of business can feel like a high octane trip round a race track some days. There are the long straights and the pacey chicanes. By the time you make it to the chequered flag, you’re exhausted!

So how to make it seem more like a leisurely Sunday afternoon drive every day? The sort your granny and grandpa used to take. But with better outcomes and higher profit margins.

Stress can be the element that pushes you across the finishing line on a tank of pure adrenalin. It’s not all bad. But you definitely need a map of the route fixed in your head, plus a safety belt and a five point harness.

 

1. SHOW ME THE SCIENCE

When we’re stressed our body releases hormones that provide a highly powerful boost in energy. Cognitively, you’re ultra-sharp, you think fast and you remain alert. All of your senses are switched on and heightened, and you react swiftly.

This stress-response system is self-limiting. Once the perceived crisis has passed, hormone levels return to normal, lowering your heart rate and blood pressure. You go back onto cruise control, and the rhythmic hum of your business resumes.

There’s plenty of research telling us that harnessing the stress response can be highly valuable. Here are two strategies on how to leverage this super-fueled state.

 

2. FORESIGHT

Jack Dorsey knows about stress. He’s the co-founder and CEO of Twitter and Square. His opinion is that stress only becomes unmanageable when things that are unexpected. ‘The more you can set a cadence around what you do and the more ritual and the more consistency you can build in your schedule, the less stress you are going to have’

Foresight is what helps us plan for the unexpected – and manage stress well. People who get good at strategic planning tend to notice the unexpected sooner. And they’re prepared.

When a crisis arises, such people take advantage of the hormone rush. Rather than react to the event negatively, they shift up a gear – smoothly – using their increased energy to manage the crisis meticulously, as planned. Once the crunch time is past, a performance review can take place and plans can be changed according to what worked.       

Crises managed this way tend to be temporary and brief, and handling them becomes effortless over time.

 

PREPARED IN MIND AND BODY

John Howard, former Australian Prime Minister (1996-2007) is a man of habit. After taking office as Prime Minister, he made a point of walking almost every day, whether at his residence or in a bustling foreign capital.  He believes the ritual of exercise was a boost to his mind as well as his health. And he’s not the only one.  President Obama also credits morning exercise for his ability to keep a calm demeanor in high-stress environments.

Research from Princeton University in New York shows that walking briskly or jogging calms you, sparking nerve cells in the brain that relax the senses the senses. Professor Elizabeth Gould says physical activity re-organises the brain so that anxiety is less likely to interfere with normal function.

You’d always wear a helmet on the race track, right? And your brain needs protection in the workplace too! Regular rhythmic exercise can minimize many symptoms of stress. Nurture your brain with fresh air and a brisk walk, and your ride will be smoother next time a challenge looms around the bed.  

Hardwiring foresight into your business, and keeping thing fresh with regular exercise – two simple measures that can be implemented at any time and cost very little.

Your granny and grandpa would have appreciated the wisdom.

 
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The Dangers of Drug and Alcohol Abuse in the Workplace

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Drugs, alcohol and work are not a cocktail we recommend. In your small business, we suggest you keep things clean from the very start with a suite of procedures and best practice in place.

If you’re a numbers person, you’ll be interested and not a little alarmed at the statistics released this month by the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare (AIHW), telling us that around one in two-hundred people in this country sought treatment for alcohol and drug use in 2014–15.

For the last ten years alcohol, cannabis, amphetamines and heroin have been the drugs causing most concern. The Institute’s spokesperson Tim Beard advises that for their clients seeking treatment aged thirty and over, alcohol was the most commonly used drug, while for clients aged twenty-nine and under, it was cannabis.

Some of those people work. It’s possible they work for you or might do so at some point. Are you ready to handle the consequences?

Let’s not be naïve. This is clearly an issues that touches workplace culture both directly and indirectly.

The Australian Drug Foundation reports that alcohol and drugs cost Australian workplaces an estimated $6 billion per year in lost productivity, with 2.5 million days lost annually.

The cost to co-workers is just as significant. One in ten workers say they have experienced the negative effects of a co-worker’s misuse of alcohol. That might include reduced capacity in doing their job, causing an accident or near miss. There can be an expectation that colleagues will cover for them, even extending their own hours of work to do so.

Whatever the size of an organisation, all employers have a legal obligation to address alcohol and drug related issues in the workplace. Reasonable or practicable steps must be taken to ensure the health and safety of all staff, as well as contractors or clients.

Which brings us back to our recommendation that you keep things clean from the start.

Managing alcohol or drug related issues in retrospect, with no supporting policy or go-to guide, is complex, stressful and costly.

At #HR we know that being proactive and having best practice in place from start-up onwards is most certainly the way to go.

There are many resources available to help employers implement best practice. Safe Work Australia is an excellent place to start looking for on-line resources governed by Australian legislation, as well as the Australian Drug Foundation for documentation that’s useful when compiling your procedures.

If you have any doubts at all, contact a professional like #HR, who will be able to support you through this process. We are an influence upon whom you should be counting.

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How to Create Strong Visual Marketing - Online and in the Office!

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We think about office design a lot at #HR. And we’ve noticed that small business owners tend to shy away from innovation and creativity.

What kind of impression are you creating in your space?

Research about visual imagery in content marketing has us all convinced of the power of visuals. An active consumer will be swayed to your brand once they are visually stimulated. If what they see and feel is compelling, they will remember you. Best of all they will share their experience with others.

BAM! Free marketing.

In her article ‘The Power of Imagery in Content Marketing’, commentator Savannah Louie cites the findings that people remember just 10 percent of what we hear.

Yada yada.

What we read is only incrementally better – we remember 20%. There’s a lot of waffle being written, and read.

But of what we see and do we remember a staggering 80 percent.

So doesn’t it pay to design the space your people see daily, where they do a great job for you with this in mind?

Imagine the scene through a new recruit’s eyes. They arrive at your office to find a fit-out dragged into this millennium from the ‘80s. Mix-and- match furniture, clunky partitions and colour schemes far from on-trend. How is this making your recruit feel? Excited to be joining you?

Take the scales from your eyes, we say! And get visual!

Your target recruitment pool – the millennials - will be less than interested in such a space. Depending on your market segment you might be limiting your sales capacity too if the hackneyed feel of your surroundings extends to your branding.

Bye-bye, free marketing.

Sure, the Baby Boomers may still be satisfied with your traditional approach. That’s because it fits them like a tatty old slipper.

But Gen X and the Millennials may not even step through your door, let alone consider a good position you have vacant.

Great news! It doesn’t take a big budget to make simple changes and turn things your way. It’s about planning first and executing smartly.

It takes imagination and creativity. And that one clever individual who knows what they’re doing, to pull it together effectively.

 

 

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Just Say Thank You! How to Manage Employees Effectively

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Are you saying goodbye to your staff too often?

Worse still, have you got a revolving door where staff are concerned? And are those still with you looking fidgety? These are signs you shouldn’t ignore!

Often it’s the simplest of things. The things your mother taught you.

A new survey in the UK found that only 16% of employees had heard the words ‘thank you’ from their boss in six months. Podium Designs did research with 750 workers to find out about workplace satisfaction.

Ask yourself: when did you last say thank you, and mean it? If you value your staff, how do you show it?

It’s easy to keep it simple and let your employees know they’re appreciated. You know it. Your mum knew it. Here’s three off the top of our head:

  • Leave a post it note on someone’s computer saying ‘thanks for that report – top job!’
  • Better still, stick your head round their door and say it in person.
  • Next time you send out an email to everyone about a win you’ve had, thank one or two people who made a difference.

But beware! Don’t leave anyone out. If it helps, be methodical. Write yourself a list of names and tick them off as you thank them. Don’t do it too often. That would be weird. And don’t write it on a whiteboard in your office.

But get that revolving door to stop turning. (And don’t leave anybody trapped inside.)

If you start to notice gaps in the list, ask yourself what’s going on. Is someone not pulling their weight? Or are you ignoring them?

We get it, we get it. You don’t want to feel as if your mum is trailing you round the office telling you to mind your Ps and Qs and say thank you. How boring is that?

So, get more adventurous! Saying thank you doesn’t have to be a chore. Develop a cunning plan around staff motivation – and get known as the way coolest and most welcoming place to work.

We love this post from 6Q blog with 40 great ways to say thank you to your employees.

The writing’s on the (office) wall. Leaders who say thank you have more motivated staff, better rates of retention, and a better reputation as an employer.

So get onto it! Say thank you! And when you’re done saying thank you, talk to your staff. Talking is free and the outcome could be profitable.

Got a unique or favourite way of thanking your staff? Leave us a comment below!

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Recruitment Strategies - Why you need to Think Differently

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In small business your focus is so often on operations - building, marketing and delivering product. The business grows, time passes and market needs are catered for. All good.

More business means you recruit more staff. And there’s the rub. Because replicating success doesn’t necessarily mean replicating your people.

Unlikely though it sounds, to build on the success you’ve achieved so far, you need people who think differently from you.

There are typically six different ways of solving a problem and they’re all equally valid, says Juliet Bourke, Partner of Consulting at Deloitte, in her Ted Talk on human capital.

It seems we each think in just a couple of those ways. A staggering 93% of those surveyed in Bourke’s research said that Outcomes and Options were the factors most important to consider when making a decision.

That left the four remaining factors of People, Process, Evidence and Risk deliberated by a mere 7%.

This is dangerous stuff, says Bourke. If you’re sketchy on Process, People, Evidence and Risk, you ask fewer questions about different ways to solve problems. You listen less when someone gives you an idea that’s different. And frankly, you may not care.

Even more worryingly, she says, 75% of senior leaders who were surveyed focused entirely on Outcomes and Options, at the expense of the four other vital factors.

Bourke points to leaders and thinkers who actively engage with people whose perspective differs from their own. Obama, President of a world superpower. Warren Buffett – the world’s most successful investor. Charles Darwin, father of evolutionary theory.

We should learn from these guys. Because whatever your politics, none of them are Muppets.

Bourke suggests that for business to be smarter, it’s vital we don’t give in to the ‘bias of sameness’ when recruiting. Don’t clone your point of view. Do something to rebalance the conversation.

When it’s time to recruit, think differently. Think laterally and smartly. Diversify.

Recruiting differently will not cost you any more. It simply requires you to have an open mind. And if your craft is not recruitment, ask for help. Don’t expect to be able to do it as well as a specialist - outsource!

 

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How To Write A Great Blog! Copywriting Secrets Revealed

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Bangers and mash.  Strawberries and cream.  Chocolate and orange.  Somethings are just made to go together, no? Individually they taste great, but together they’re mouth-watering. 

Business partnerships are just like bangers and mash. True, there are some tasks best done alone, or individuals who work well independently. We all know a few of those. But occasionally a pairing of like minds puts something really special in the can. Think Ben and Jerry.

Blogging is a dish which can cook up a storm with the right partnership. Many small businesses have got the recipe right and adapted their business stream to generate regular, readable content about their specialised field.  They know the stats and realise it’s one of the best marketing tools to direct traffic back to their website. 

Blogs are now proven to be a great appetiser for the consumer. A whopping 61% of US online consumers have made purchases based on recommendations from a blog. Companies that blog achieve a 126% increase to their lead growth compared to those that don’t.

Many thought leaders suggest that any old Tom, Dick or Harriet who’s used to writing emails or marketing content is capable of mastering blogging.  Content, they say, is king, implying that if you know the business, the art of writing it up can be taken as read.

It reminds us of when David Beckham retired and announced he might become an actor. Just as your or I might decide to become a premier league soccer player. Or a gifted wordsmith.

You might know your business and your industry inside out and in your bones. But developing writing or blogging skills on the job, while continuing to deliver on your other obligations, is not going to result in your cake rising.

A quick Q and A session with Fiona Stocker, copywriter and Principal of Fiona Stocker Boutique Communications, indicates why. She’s been copywriting, ghostwriting and editing in small business and the corporate sector for years. There’s nothing she likes more than to take our content, have a good snort over it, and then make it shine.

 

Question 1: How does partnering with a copywriter get your message across?

Answer: A great copywriter takes your material to another level. The business world is full of writing (copy, to be technical) that is tawdry, stuffed with jargon, puts people to sleep and makes one company sound exactly like another. Thankfully, it’s also full of great material written by copywriters.

Think of any advertisement you’ve seen that grabbed your attention, made you laugh, or made you think. That wasn’t written by a marketing manager, or by a CEO. It was written by a copywriter. Ironically, that person might not give a flying fruit bat about the business. What they are bothered about is words, and how to make them fly off a page and imprint themselves on the consumer’s mind.

 

Question 2: Can a copywriter make a difference to the bottom line?

Answer: A copywriter can do whatever you want. If you want them to create sales or queries, make that clear, and look for a specialist. If you want someone who can write specifically for your target market, find a writer with the gift of crafting copy that appeals directly to them. If you’re selling top end travel to life-long-learners, you speak in a different voice than if you’re selling shorts to surf dudes. Copywriters are the original multi-taskers. They do what they do with their brain, their heart and the seat of their pants, and they know instinctively when the mix is right.

 

Question 3: Is blog content different from other content?

Answer: Absolutely. You wouldn’t write your annual report in the same style as a blog post. But more importantly, your blog should be replete with rich SEO material. You might know your keywords from working with your web designer, and you’ve probably built up an instinctive understanding and repertoire of keywords based on what’s trending in your industry.

Where a copywriter can help is in weaving those words into great copy – and a catchy headline - that is readable and enjoyable – but not obviously stuffed with them.  If you’re looking to boost sales directly through your blog, look for an SEO Copywriter. If you want to differentiate your business with an original style, just look for a great writer and someone you’d enjoy working with. If you’re going to create blog magic together, there should be chemistry between you. 

 

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Success in Business - A Choice or Just Good Luck?

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What do best-selling authors John Grisham, J K Rowling and Theodor Geisel (creator of childhood favourite Dr. Seuss) all have in common?

Beyond their literary success and award winning feats of imagination, they each faced multiple professional rejections before making it big.

Grisham’s manuscript A Time to Kill was rejected by twenty-six publishers.  Dr Seuss went one better with And to Think I Saw it on Mulberry Street, and was turned down by twenty-seven. And the first Harry Potter was shown the door by nine. 

Each of these acclaimed writers backed their work, refined it and persisted. Their determination was finally rewarded with publishing success and much loved books - and the rest is literary history.

That’s lucky for us, but it was more than luck that made the difference for them.

In his book The Drunkard’s Walk, Leonard Mlodinow tells his readers that hard work and persistence matter – because these are the factors that increase your chances of success when good luck, chance or a random act comes your way. 

 ‘A lot of what happens to us – success in our careers, in our investments, and in our life decisions, both major and minor – is as much the result of random factors as the result of skill, preparedness, and hard work.’ - Leonard Mlodinow

 

SUCCESS IS A CHOICE

According to the United States’ Pew Research Center, those in higher income brackets are far more likely to believe that individuals get rich primarily from working hard. Wealthy people overwhelmingly attribute their own success to hard work rather than factors like luck or being in the right place at the right time.

American non-fiction author and finacial journalist Michael Lewis agrees.  'People really don't like to hear success explained away as luck, especially successful people.  As they age, and succeed, people feel their success was somehow inevitable.  They don't want to acknowledge the role played by accident in their lives.'

Success, those who enjoy it believe, stems mostly from application to task - and a simple, dogged determination not to give up.

History too suggests that extraordinary dedication is what lays the groundwork for that moment when random chance plays its hand. 

Marie Curie was a Polish-born physicist and chemist and one of the most famous scientists of her time. Together with her husband Pierre, she was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1903, and she went on to win another in 1911. She led her educational life in miserable conditions, without food or any home comforts, but her hard work determined her luck and that is why world remembers her today.

 

LESS PERFECTION, MORE AUTHENTICITY

From authentic endeavour comes authentic success – and those who are pretenders to the throne risk being found out. In 1989, performers Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus gained international acclaim as R&B duo Milli Vanilli. Their debut album “Girl You Know It’s True” earned multi-platinum success and the group sold more than 30 million singles worldwide. A year following their meteoric rise, the duo came under scrutiny after it was revealed that they did not sing any of the vocals heard on the recording.  They returned their 1990 Grammy Award for Best New Artist.

Their chance encounter with stardom quickly spiraled, leading to a career demise and public outcry over lip-syncing.  Attempts to re-launch their careers in a more authentic way were tarnished by the scandal. 

Eight years later, Rob Pilatus was found dead after allegedly ingesting a mixture of pills and alcohol. He was just thirty-two years of age. 

It was already a heavy load to carry the secret for years, and it literally took my brother [Rob] six feet underground. I feel very lucky and blessed that I’m still here today able to breathe and reinvent myself. - Fab Morvan

Rowling submitted another manuscript after an eighth knock-back. Madam Curie chose her pioneering work in radioactivity over personal comfort and warmth. If only Milli Vanilli had been given the chance to make similar choices. 

Success is won, but with endeavour rather than luck. That’s not to say that drive and determination can’t be coupled with an open heart and acceptance of chance good fortune. It’s a golden pathway and the narrative of many a success story – in business, in love, in interests and in friendship.

 

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How Effective Are Your Management Skills? - 4 Ways to Lift Your Game

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Ever been to the doctor, been prodded and poked, clamped, scraped, sampled, screened, diagnosed, prescribed and pronounced all better, only to wish they’d met your eye and said ‘G’day and how are you?’

In management and business we focus on strategy and outcome. The softer skills – managing the people who implement the strategy and bring us the outcomes - are often learned on the job. We acquire them though our own personal fumbles or, if we’re lucky, a mentor who imparts their wisdom. And we don’t see them as part of our core business. Big mistake.

You’re not alone if you find great people management, for all its perception as a ‘softer skill’, one of the trickier to master. But it’s essential if you want your people to feel – and perform - better.

Books, podcasts and even social media are great platforms for sourcing expertise. The methods you’ll read about are tried and tested, which takes away the guesswork and gets you up to speed quickly.

Mark Horstman author of The Effective Manager and podcaster of The Management Tools  is a go-to influencer on this subject. ‘Regardless of how long you’ve been managing or how many people report to you, statistics show you probably aren’t getting the most out of your team,’ he says.

So let’s run our hands under the hot tap, slip behind the consulting room curtain and examine how you could build better relationships and drive performance. There are four critical behaviours.

GET TO KNOW YOUR PEOPLE - 'SO BE FRIENDLY'

 

It’s simple: get to know the people who work for you and look to you for influence. Understand each of them, and know what they do well and not so well.  Your primary responsibility might be to achieve results, but giving the right tasks to the right people makes all the difference.

 ‘People and their behaviours are what deliver results to your organisation – not systems, not processes, not computers, not machines.’ - Mark Horstman

The best way to get to know your people, says Horstman, is to talk to them. Fancy that!  Fact: smiling, giving encouragement, talking and laughing are all behaviours that people absorb and appreciate. They’re the behaviours that encourage others to like you and be open with you. So being friendly, in a natural and authentic way, really is an insider’s ticket to knowing your staff well – with all that promises. Who knew?

TALK ABOUT PERFORMANCE - 'POLITELY AND PROFESSIONALLY'

 

It’s okay to share your thoughts about an individual’s performance – provided you have the skills to do it politely and professionally. Feedback shouldn’t be reserved for when things are going badly. Just as you might expect your boss or clients to communicate often with you, your direct reports are hoping for the same. 

If you’ve made the effort to connect with your staff, delivering feedback gets easier with time. Better still, once this kind of open communication is part of your culture, it’s a seamless, easy and cost-free way to achieve results and retain your team.

 

ASK FOR MORE

Raise the bar. Keep everyone within their comfort zones and you’re nothing more than a caretaker for the business, says Horstman. Team performance has to evolve at the same pace as the business grows. Everyone has to meet demands and it’s your role as manager to make that happen.

‘To be an effective manager means encouraging and inspiring all of your directs to higher performance even when they say they don’t want to – because you know that the organisation needs that to stay competitive’ - Mark Horstman

Horstman is clear on the need to challenge the status quo and keep average performers moving. That way, when the bar is raised, they’re less likely to become worrisome under-performers.

 

PUSH WORK DOWN

If there’s a task you can do but the same can be done by one of your direct reports – then push the task down. Sure, they might not do it as well as you, but if the quality will be close enough, enable them and hand it over. It’s empowering for them, and here’s the rub: it’s good for business too.

Once you’ve done that, turn your attention to what’s being pushed down to you – whether it’s from your boss or your clients. Show your employees that work is best shared not siloed. It’s a great tip for increasing productivity and creating capacity in your organisation.

That’s it in four. Know your people, talk to them, ask more of them and push work down. So-called soft skills which we prefer to see as a recipe for organisational health – and a way to lift your management game all round.

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Gender Equality in Recruitment and Avoiding the Merit Trap

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It would be impossible, and pointless, to pick who’s smartest between the Australian Chief Executive Women - 400 of Australia’s most senior and distinguished women leaders - and the Male Champions of Change - a coalition of decent, powerful men stepping up beside women to create a more gender equal world.

Why, they’re equal in their smartness and their greatness, of course.

Between them, the members of these two initiatives hold the top CEO jobs in the country. Collaboratively, their latest dispatch firing the synapses of the business world is In the Eye of the Beholder – Avoiding The Merit Trap, a 15 page report packed full of ideas which are gaining traction everywhere – and rightly so.

When we talk about engagement in the workplace and building teams which gel and are productive, often what’s perceived to make things work well is similarity - in gender, ethnicity, taste. Such characteristics and qualities have a potential to cluster within organisations. When we recruit unconsciously, we replicate patterns over and over again.

While we might believe that we’re recruiting on merit, and not factors like gender, un-interrogated thinking limits the talent search. And our business suffers from that ‘bias of sameness’ we’ve talked about in our earlier posts.

This is the Merit Trap.

President of Chief Executive Women Diane Smith-Gander explains. ‘Too often, decision-makers think they're selecting the best person for the job on the basis of merit, but in fact they're favouring people who look like them or think like them and ignoring the organisation's future needs,’ she says. ‘When this happens, they've fallen into the merit trap.'

Elizabeth Broderick AO, former Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner and founder of Male Champions of Change in 2010, says. ‘If women make up 50% of this population in Australia, indeed 60% of the most educated people, why are we not seeing them in equal proportions in organisations?  That tells me there is something other than merit operating in the environment.’

Put bluntly, as only we can, the upper echelons of our business world just might be continuing to recruit based on gender sameness. But they’re calling it merit.

 

AVOID THE TRAP

Avoiding the Merit Trap means setting out deliberately to create a culture of diverse minds. Employees engage with each other not because they’re able to cluster together comfortably with people who think along the same lines as them, but because they see their business being stimulated and enhanced by others who think differently.

Hard-wiring this new thinking into our strategic planning is a big and brave step – but an essential one. It takes a collective acknowledgement at the uppermost level that future challenges might not be answered in the same way as past ones – relying on the same minds, and the same answers.

 

ADOPT DIVERSITY

Jayne Hrdlicka, CEO of Jetstar Group is an early adopter of such thinking. ‘We make small changes to the system because no one believes it’s broken. But if we only tweak, we never get change. To move 180 degrees we have to have someone holding up the mirror at every stage of the process asking ‘why do we think that?’

 

THE FILTER DOWN EFFECT

The Merit Trap is usually a systemic problem, and it takes authentic and innovative leaders and innovative leaders to bring about real change. And here’s what happens. Once our business leaders are thinking about diversity as a means of keeping employees engaged, that thinking filters down through the organisation. Different viewpoints, life experiences and professional knowledge bring a bucketful of enhancement that creates – you guessed it - big impact.

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Smarter Employee Recruitment Process in 4 Easy Steps

smarter_employee_recruitment_tips

Imagine you’re getting married. How did you ‘recruit’ your spouse?

Did you go looking for someone with a Proven Experience in Breadwinning, and a Degree in Neighbourliness with Honours in the Politics of the Bedroom?

Or did you team up organically with someone you liked? Their ideas, life experience and world view was different from your own, but something about them struck you as right. You connected. And they passed the friends test.

Okay we live in dangerous times full of tiger mothers and speed dating and some people go at marriage with a checklist and will answer yes to Option One.

Whatever you do, take a broader view when recruiting for your business.

Recruitment. That word sends shivers down the spine of many a small business owner, and an echo ricocheting through the echelons of big business.

The right recruits create the culture of your workplace, for better or worse.

It’s like a marriage. So get it right!

A survey by online job site Indeed reported that '97% of small business owners have difficulty making the right hire.’

Many employers see recruitment as a deviation from their core business. We say it goes to the heart of your brand and should be given your fullest attention.

'If you think hiring professionals is expensive, try hiring amateurs." - Anonymous

Outsourcing is an attractive option, but daunting once you calculate the agency fees. Although in-house recruiting costs in time, once absorbed it can be preferable to a jaw-dropping invoice.   

Those in the know use a handful of golden strategic moves.

 

RESEARCH

'A clever business thinks first. It’s the only way to get value from your advertising budget.' - Jen Gutwenger, #HR

Become the candidate. Search the internet as if you’re the job seeker. Key in the job title and location, and use the data generated to kick start the process. The top search results give you the best advertising sites to use, similar vacancies, and highlight variances between your job and the rest.

How does your role or company differentiate itself? What will the best candidate be looking for? Are you offering it? And how could your job ad look and read better. 

“Write a creative, pithy, eye catching ad and you’ll get candidates to match. Write a humdrum ad and you’ll get the rest.” Fiona Stocker, Boutique Communications

 

AUTHENTICITY

Be yourself. The standout skill in recruiting is your own ability to create a comfortable environment. It gives the candidate every opportunity to be themselves and talk candidly. 

Prepare the room for a conversation, not a briefing.  Desk and chair placement is paramount - don’t sit behind a desk!

If prescribed questions are your thing, write them down and use them. But do so in a relaxed fashion and be comfortable with moments of silence. These prompt gold nugget moments – when the candidate fills the space by talking unscripted.

“Just write out some questions and ask them." One of the biggest mistakes in conducting an interview.

 

BEST PRACTICE

There are many HR and recruitment agencies offering e-books full of tips and templates for in-house recruiting and best practice principles.  

Government agencies have specific on-line resources, particularly for small businesses.

 In Australia the Fair Work Ombudsman provides many useful templates and guides for the lawful employment of staff.

The challenge is finding appropriate recruitment tools and techniques for you, closing the gap between your offering and best practice principles. Great candidates are attracted to the company which appears most professional. Don’t let them slip through the net due to simple oversights here.

 

EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE

Hire on merit, not technical ability - it’s a classic mistake. Anything technical can be learned – software skills, the nature of your widget manufacturing. What you’re looking for is not a background in widgets. It’s the attributes which will be a great fit with your team and bring something new and wonderful to the table. A great team player; a lateral thinker; and if it’s an executive, someone who genuinely gets on with everyone, from the shop floor to the Boardroom.

Hire on merit. That doesn’t mean someone who thinks like you. It means someone whose thinking you like. Hire the person you’d like to spend time and generate ideas with. Hire the person who speaks from the heart, to yours.

 

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5 Effective Communication Skills - Dealing With Difficult Conversations

Difficult-Conversations-and-How-to-Have-Them

Conflict is a fact of life, and it happens in every workplace. As leaders, we’re unlikely to get through day-to-day operations without the occasional tough, perhaps heated, or even hair-raising discussion with an employee or colleague.

Conflicts can manifest overnight and should be managed. Because they can escalate quickly when we don’t make the time to have those difficult conversations.

Such conversations arise for many reasons. It may be a simple matter such as leave or a pay rise request,  or more serious employee grievances or performance related issues.

No matter the nature of the issue, it’s important to deal with it straight away. Let it linger at your peril - that’s when things escalate. Going into the discussion with a careful and considered approach is wise. A difficult conversation, handled insensitively, can affect your relationship with the other party, and the wider workforce too – perhaps even your business relationships.

Fair Work Ombudsman Australia outlines the best practice steps for getting to grips with such conversations, making them easier and more constructive.  These steps provide leaders and business owners with practical guidance, and they’re designed to help us avoid potential pitfalls, oversights and general mismanagement.

1. NO SMALL TALK

Begin the meeting by stating what the issue is right away. Don’t preface the conversation with unnecessary small talk – this gives a false impression.

2. STICK TO THE FACTS

Stick to the facts rather than relying on opinions or hearsay. Give examples where possible. Explain how the issue is impacting on your organisation. Most importantly, focus on the issue at hand, rather than the person.

3. LISTEN

Listen to your employee. Considering their point of view is vital. There could be a range of facts or situations you don’t know about. Keeping an open mind may help you consider alternative solutions.

4. BE PREPARED

Be prepared for your employee to react emotionally. Consider telling them in advance that they can bring a support person to the meeting, if they want to.

5. BE OBJECTIVE

Manage your own emotions as well. Stay calm and focus objectively on the issues.

The ideal outcome is an agreement, and you should aim for a mutually agreed plan. Then be consistent and have the smarts to follow through. The more resolute you are with this, the greater the probability of a successful outcome in the long term. That’s a win for everyone concerned.

There are complexities and ambiguities in every workplace. These simple strategies are designed to help you manage them. Take some time to measure your own processes against them, and tweak accordingly.

Want to mitigate conflict in the first place? Keep communication channels open. Your employees should be comfortable in discussions with you. 

It takes time, skill and effort to lead people – so be brave and have the conversations that truly matter.

 

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Leadership Language - 3 Powerful Words You Shouldn't Use!

Mind-Your-Leadership-Language

Yeah, but no, but yeah, but …

Marshall Goldsmith likes practical and proven methods. He’s not a man to beat about the bush. As a world-renowned business educator and coach, Goldsmith’s singular ability to get results for top leaders has drawn over 150 CEOs and their management teams to transform their thinking and bring about deep and effective changes in their workplace – and their own behaviour.

One of his secrets? The ‘No, But, However’ theory.

Here’s what Goldsmith writes in his MG Thinkers 50 Blog. ‘An easy habit for people who like to win to fall into, and a surefire shortcut for killing conversations, is to start a sentence with “no,” “but,” or “however”. It doesn’t matter how friendly your tone is or how honey sweet you say these words, the message to your recipient is “You are wrong.”’

These three words, however you configure them, exhibit a lack of interest in exploring options and being open to the perspective of others present.

“That’s true, but I think that misses the point ...”
“Yes, but let’s remember that ….. “
“I know. However, the thinking around that has been …”
“No, that’s not what we’re talking about here …”
“Well maybe that’s the case, but if we look at past examples…..”

To Marshall, using of these words is a clear indicator of one’s leadership style. And it’s characterized by an underlying competitiveness and power play.

Does that sound like you? If you’ve answered ‘Yes, but…..’ then perhaps you need to read on.

The presence of these tiny inflections in your speech patterns and your thinking habits means other contributions in the debate sink into a kind of twilight zone for you. They may as well not be there. They’re irrelevant.

It leaves the other people in the conversation wondering whether commenting is in any way worthwhile, or having a future opinion is worth the effort.

When you occupy a leadership position, or any role of authority, it can be easy to override the ideas of others, and call upon your own view as the prevailing one. There’s no doubt that developing a presence as the other style of leader - a collaborative one - takes time and patience. You’ve got to listen to all those other views, think about them, maybe even incorporate them into your own thinking!

However, (did we really say that?) - the payoff can be golden. It builds a team of diverse thinkers, confident that they have the right to put new and interesting points on the table. Ultimately it builds the capacity for your business to make strategic progress, and innovate … without you.

It’s radical, but true. You may remain there, but your business and your colleagues thrive all around you. And if you get called away, take a sabbatical, or want to move on, you’ve created a successful and independent team – that’s a great legacy.

Think about taking this test. For the next few days, make a mental note each time you reply with “No,” “But,” or “However.” Why not make an actual note of it too – you may be surprised when you refer to it later. Go the whole hog and ask your team to help. Encourage them to call you on it! Brave enough? You’ll find that this elevates the quality of your guidance, and your team’s collaborative engagement.

The less we focus on ourselves the more we benefit, believes Goldsmith. We think it’s a simple technique that we could all benefit from!

(We should say at this point, that’s not Marshall in the pink tracksuit.)

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3 Simple Ways To Keep Your Employees Happy

how_to_keep_employees_happy_strong_leadership

A business should never be quiet.  Sure, there might be some moments when you hear only the clicking of keyboards or the gentle hum of a hard-drive. That’s when you know your team is head-down making the magic happen. Give yourself a pat on the back. But make it brief! At #HR we never recommend resting on your laurels – because things can change in a heartbeat.

When they’re not heads down over a keyboard, database or phone line, there should be a healthy balance of movement and banter about your people. And there’s always one or two who stand out, for all the reasons small business owners love and admire. They’re the ones who love your brand and put their own heart and soul into making it work. Others may have talent. These people bring something extra to the table – what Tim McClure, Professional Speaker and Brand and Leadership Consultant, describes as creativity, ideas and keenness in his article for Jonathan Mills.

The inspiration and aspiration of these highly motivated individuals can, if nurtured, bring an extraordinary exuberance and pep to your business and drive it forward just as vibrantly as you can.

So it’s a worst case scenario when your most passionate employee goes quiet. As a result, there’s a palpable unease and a lack of the usual energy rippling through the place. As McClure observes, ‘Passion is contagious, and so is not having it’.  

What should you do when you notice the effects? You should act straight away.

Doing nothing is all-too common a response, and it’s definitely not best practice, taking you down a bumpy and complex road of uncertainty and possibly expense – if this pivotal person leaves and you have to replace them.

Here are our top three tips for dealing with the situation:

 

1. BE QUICK TO RESOLVE CONFLICT IN THE WORKPLACE

Problems can manifest overnight, or in moments around the water cooler.  They become contagious, and even toxic. If you value your team, you’ll act on discontent the moment it manifests. And because you recognise the value of that special player within your ranks, you’ll be focussing on them.

 

2. ALWAYS LISTEN TO YOUR EMPLOYEES - BE CANDID AND OPEN

This is one of the most mission critical people in your organisation. They help create the culture. If things have gone off-track, this individual will have something insightful to say about it and you need to know what that is. So stop, and listen. Respond but don’t interrupt. Create a comfortable space and time where they have the chance to talk without negative comeback. You’ll learn something, and you’ll have started equipping yourself with the knowledge you’ll need to fix it – with your employee alongside you.

 

3. DEMONSTRATE STRONG LEADERSHIP - BE DECISIVE AND PASSIONATE

In his article, McClure outlines the reasons why a passionate employee loses their mojo. Often it’s because of an issue with your leadership – a breach of trust, a lack of consistency, overlooking someone. It’s essential to get your leadership mojo back in good shape quick smart.  Resolve your employee’s problems decisively, and most importantly, get their buy-in. How you handle their grievance will determine whether they continue to love your brand - or move on to love another one. 

Dealing with passionate, smart people can take all the emotional intelligence skills you have. And showing them how valued they are is critical. If you’re facing a situation like the one above, think about getting help to address it. If that means bringing in a consultant who is across best practice and can mediate talks between you and a passionate employee, what better way to show that person what they mean to your business. 

 

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Bad Boss Behaviour - Are You Guilty?

Bad-Boss-Behaviour

Are you guilty of bad boss behaviour? The chances are that nobody will tell you, least of all your employees. But we will!

Employees tolerate a lot of bad management. Some bosses are untrained in how to lead. Others may be uncaring or clueless to the challenges faced by the individuals in their team. And some are just oblivious to the impact of their actions or interaction.

For an ordinary employee, it takes immense courage to give direct feedback to a manager. It’s risky too. What if it goes over badly? Are they likely to face a reprimand or worse?

If they choose not to table their thoughts, as most do faced with this intimidating scenario, then it takes a lot of commitment for them to look past any transgressions and stay engaged.

In the worst case scenario, an employee moves on to greener pastures, leaving their boss no wiser of their shortcomings, or the reason behind the revolving door and continual recruitment drive.

Worth addressing? We think so. Read on – because nobody need know you’re doing so, and it might save you a whole heap of grief – you and your employees.


WHAT IT IS TO BE INCOMPETENT

Incompetence is a slur thrown around and can mean different things to different people. Generally, incompetence is an inability to do your job satisfactorily, the way others might expect.

It can be a passing phase, brought on by random circumstances. We’ve all found ourselves in situations that overwhelm us and have felt unequal to the task in hand at some point. This is pretty natural in the normal course of things. Put your hand up and ask for help – situation solved. That’s not necessarily incompetence. That’s just you, having a moment.

When incompetence lingers and repeats itself, when the same situations occur on repeat, it’s more than just a passing phase. In this scenario, you need help. If you find yourself in a role where the shoe really doesn’t fit, the best course of action by far is to ask for help and advice, or find a role that’s better suited to your shoe size and skill set. That could be inside the company – or it could be elsewhere.

Own it. The problem, the scenario – be accountable. Because those around you have a ringside view of every stumble, blunder and fall. They’re most likely talking too, a situation which isn’t healthy or helpful for any of us.

 

CAUGHT IN THE CLUTCHES OF YOUR EGO

Egos are tricky things. If you’re not careful, yours can sneak up and announce itself when you least expect it. Before you know it, you’re acting in ways that simply aren’t conducive to good leadership. You’re not valuing your team, you’re not adding value to the discussion, and deep down you know it.

Our ego can be our biggest barrier to success. We’re all good at something but we’re not necessarily the best. Some people find that hard to accept, and they waste a lot of everyone’s time and effort in denying it. Ultimately, it’s worth sacrificing your ego and ‘settling’ for mainstream. Because if we all stick to what we’re good at and work together instead of trying to outshine everyone else, we can make greatness happen – together.

To be outstanding in a particular field takes a deep level of mastery. To create mastery as a group is easier. We’re better as a tribe. Try it.


CIRCLE OF TRUST - OR LACK THERE OF

Management gone wrong makes employees feel unprotected and insecure. It creates an atmosphere of uncertainty and a fear of consequences. Marcus Buckingham, British author and motivational speaker has famously said, ‘People don’t leave bad companies, they leave bad managers.’

Great leaders can define a culture. They drive engagement, safety and trust. They look out for the person on their left, while supporting the person to their right, and they never forget about the people above and below.

This type of leader stands out. They’re instantly recognizable. Their employees can be seen to trust them implicitly - they’re given no reason to feel otherwise. And they’re followed because that naturally feels right to those around them.

A leader like this can be certain that when the chips are down their tribe will back them, working smarter, harder, creating greatness.

So if you find yourself standing alone, have a think about your circle of trust. Do you have one? Or are you mostly gazing at your own reflection? Perhaps a few people loiter around you submissively. If so, it could be because you’re paying their salary.

Give them a better reason for staying.

 

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Not Right Now, Thanks! Embracing Workplace Flexibility

workplace-flexibility

Is your workplace flexible enough to allow a senior member of staff to send this kind of message?

‘I work flexibly at Telstra. I’m sending this message now because it suits me. I don’t expect you to read, action or respond out of normal work hours.’

This is the email signature of Troy Roderick, Telstra’s Head of Diversity & Inclusion. Signs are that while it might still be a tad unexpected, it’s on the way to becoming the norm. And for good reason!

According to Australian research conducted jointly by Bain & Company and Australia’s powerful Chief Executive Women lobby group, juggling our career aspirations and family growth and needs is entirely possible - as long we think of workplace flexibility as a norm and not an exception to the rule.

In this 2015 report, The Power of Flexibility: A key enabler to boost gender parity and engagement, it’s emerges that Australian organisations have built good foundations for flexibility within their workforces. But key challenges still remain - especially if we want workable options for both genders.

As it turns out, workplace flexibility isn’t just a woman’s issue. Data shows that men are demanding work flexibility too. The primary reason is that they want to play more active roles as caregivers, and rightly so. If we really aspire to equality within our workforce at every level up to senior leader, it’s crucial both genders should be equally considered and enabled - with flexible work practices.

Gone are the days when employees worked 9 to 5, Monday to Friday and only within the same four office walls. The incredible transition of the digital age, and our new capacity to run operations and communicate 24/7 from anywhere with a wifi connection has changed everything in most of our working communities - and across the globe.

 

WESTPAC CASE STUDY – IT’S TIME TO LOVE BANKS

The 2015 report highlights Westpac Banking Corporation as a standout company. They offer a range of flexible work practices, as part of their longstanding commitment to flexibility.

Those of us in smaller businesses might debunk their efforts as 'big business with bigger budgets’. But there is no denying the teams at Westpac have done their research and are implementing change for reasons that resonate in small business too. There are many takeaways that smaller teams could easily adopt and weave into their own culture with tremendous benefit.

Brian Hartzer, Westpac Group CEO, nails it. ‘The way I see it, flexibility helps people achieve their full potential by removing barriers to success. If people have the flexibility to manage their personal commitments, they are more likely to bring their whole selves to work every day. And that means they’re more likely to do their best work and exceed customer expectations.’

Like the inside scoop? Here are five key practices Westpac leaders are required to implement, to facilitate flexibility:

  1. Make yes the default answer;
  2. Put flexibility on the agenda at team meetings;
  3. Understand the flex options and resources available;
  4. Raise flexibility as a key benefit; and
  5. Role-model flexibility.

The culmination of Westpac’s thinking is in their WorkSMART initiative. This permits employees to choose how, when and where they work. It’s a transformative program charged with overhauling Westpac’s corporate environment, technology, tools, systems and policies. They’re set on creating a culture where work is no longer a place you go, but something you do and achieve.

 

BENEFITS? WE THINK SO!

When you encourage employees to reach their full potential through flexible work practices, the capacity to generate a positive environment and boost employee advocacy and productivity is proven to follow.

It seems Westpac aren’t the only bank with the smarts on this. As Craig Meller, CEO of AMP points out, ‘normalising flexible work opens up new sources of talent and new ways of operating, and this is key to being an innovative and agile business.’

The small business sector has much to gain by following suit, and actively encouraging the uptake of flexible work practice arrangements. It’s well worth considering how we can make such practices work for our teams – and that includes the whole team, not just those with kids Others have family and other commitments of a different nature.

Be sure to underpin your new thinking with clear policies and practices.

If you lead a culture that’s supportive and respectful of flexibility, and make it the norm rather than the exception, only good things can come, both now, and later!

 

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Carla Schesser
Couldn't agree more Anna!
Thursday, 02 November 2017 11:48
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Lightbulb Moments and Why We Should Act on Them

lightbulb-moment

‘When you’ve exhausted all possibilities, remember this - you haven’t.’ Fine words from Thomas A. Edison, father of the light bulb and one of the world’s most prolific inventors.

Edison was a busy man, creating devices that influenced life around the world, including the phonograph and the motion picture camera. He did it with very limited resources, and often in seemingly simple ways. He wasn’t guided by forums or comment sections, from impressive analytic software or world-wide searches for specialised talent. He invented deftly and creatively - and made lots of mistakes, using his failures to achieve greater understanding and bring him closer to his eventual success.

For us, perhaps it’s not so simple. We’re in information overload, deluged with an abundance of knowhow and opinion. Information is at our finger tips – an endless supply of tools, tips, tricks, and hacks we can access in our pursuit of knowledge and results.

The possibility that we can exhaust every avenue of enquiry is just not feasible. Edison himself would be baffled by the scope of the Internet. So the greatest challenge for us lies in finding the sweet spot – the exact moment when we should stop searching - and start doing. Often it’s much earlier than we think.

Too much choice makes any process exhausting. It leads to uncertainty and a kind of decision-making paralysis. And when you’re in business or leading a team, grinding to a halt is dangerous.

 

IT’S IN THE JAM

Researcher Barry Schwartz says, “As the number of options increases, the costs, in time and effort, of gathering the information needed to make a good choice also increase.” We presume, Schwartz says, that if some choice is a good thing, then more choice will be better. He calls this the ‘paradox of choice’ and cites one particular study that makes it all clear.

In a corner store one Thursday, six types of jam were placed on sale in an attractive display. On Friday, the numbers were increased to twenty-four different flavours. How’s a person to choose? Well might you ask!

Researchers found that Friday’s jam-fest attracted more customers than the modest display on Thursday, but when it came time to buy, shoppers who had seen Friday’s multitude of flavours were one-tenth as likely to buy as those who had seen the more manageable display on Thursday!

 

LESS IS MORE

Too much choice, then, or the endless pursuit for more choice, is not necessarily a good thing, and that goes for our business practices as well.

It certainly makes sense to shop around in the quest for reduced stationary costs or when purchasing specialist safety equipment. But when making decisions involving people or productivity, trying to exhaust all possibilities can end up putting limits on the final decision – or thwarting it altogether.

Making the best choice should be less about algorithmic equations and star ratings, and more about using our creative thinking and intuition.

Allowing ourselves fewer options to choose from and get confused by can also help steer us away from making conventional choices, and encourage us to delve into the world of more creative possibilities.

 

STICK TO YOUR SIX PACK

Recruitment is a prime example of where we often feel obliged to amass an overwhelming level of information before making choices or appointing candidates. Seeking the ideal becomes all about nailing a specific skillset to the ‘nth’ degree, when it should be the hunt for a diverse thinker and a creative mind.

If you’re in an interview and getting the feeling that the best candidate is sitting there right in front of you, trust your instinct. And be careful. Are you conducting a thorough interview – or making them jump through pointless hoops? An excessive checklist of questions can quickly turn a good candidate’s interest into utter disinterest. And for the would-be employer, wanting to exhaust all possibilities in the recruitment and interview process can lose you the best candidate – maybe one who could bring greatness to the team.

When Edison thought he’d try ‘just one more thing’, he wasn’t confronted with a list of multiple thousand search results. The world is different today and it’s important to know when to stop. We all know when we’re having a light bulb moment. Connect with your instincts and act on it!

 

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5 Traits of an Impossible Leader

5-Traits-of-an-Impossible-Leader

Leaders want and sometimes expect to be liked, listened to and respected. So when you hear through the grapevine that your leadership style is on the nose and perhaps you’re not as cool as you thought, it can be pretty devastating.

But count yourself lucky.

Nobody wants to work for someone who is ineffective or even impossible to work with. But very few employees will give feedback when it’s happening. It’s not unusual to find yourself the last man or woman standing – and then find out it’s because nobody liked your style. That’s painful.

Most employees avoid giving feedback upwards and simply find greener pastures. So, if you’re savvy enough to sense that things are turning sour before they completely unravel, take advantage. Get to work on your leadership style.

That means digging deep and doing some self-analysis. A great place to start is with these top five ‘impossible leader’ behaviours. How does your style compare?


1. EXPECTING THEM TO READ YOUR MIND


As a species we’re not able to read minds and yet some managers appear to expect their team to have psychic powers. Whatever it is you’re communicating – direction, praise, information, or a thumbs up emoji – it needs to be made explicit. Say things out loud, send a detailed email, deliver a project brief. If your team isn’t crystal clear about what you expect of them, when they’re on the right track, or when you want a change of direction or focus, confusion, mistakes and frustration will be the result. The reason? The key specifics, deliverables and expectations were not delivered - by you. Big mistake!


2. TUNING OUT, NOT IN


Employees want to be able to talk to their leaders. More importantly, they want to be heard. Doesn’t matter whether it’s a question about new software, project feedback, or job frustrations. Tuning out? Well you potentially leave them high and dry with little opportunity for moving forward. When an employee gets stuck, a small situation can become an insurmountable one – without your guidance. An open door policy needs to mean just that. Open your door, and your ears – and really listen.


3. PURVEYOR OF EMPTY PROMISES


Promises, promises. If you don’t follow through on them, it’s #yawn. Employees are like children in that they remember what you’ve committed to, and what you’ve followed through with. When your list of follow-through deliverables is too long and it becomes clear you have no real interest in closing it off, you’re sending a clear message to the workforce – that you can’t be trusted, and nor can your word.


4. ALWAYS RIGHT


There’s no polite way of saying this. People who insist on being right are impossible to deal with in any situation. They’re particularly damaging in the workplace. If this is your style as a manager, it promises to squash any prospect of those around you feeling empowered in your presence. Are you the type who looks something up on Google mid-conversation to prove your point? Classic. Time to step back, humble up and get your team around you for more of a mutual exchange.


5. CHANGE RESISTANT

Without change, innovation is impossible, and yet leaders can find themselves resisting it. Change brings risk, and responsibility. But if your team or employee presents you with an idea and you reject it out of hand, even if it promises real growth, then there’s a problem. It’s normal to harbor some fear and trepidation, but when this translates to anxiety or worse, if your negative outlook starts to catastrophise things, moving forward becomes impossible - and extremely frustrating for those around you. Find a way of managing change - and even embracing it.


TIME TO WANT IT!


Marshall Goldsmith is an expert of epic proportions on the subject of leadership. He’s been rated #1 Leadership Thinker and one of the Top Ten Most Influential Business Thinkers in the World, a top-ranked Executive Coach at the 2013 biennial Thinkers50 ceremony, and twice a New York Times best-seller.

Goldsmith famously says the clients he spends the least time with are the ones who improve the most, and those he spends the most time with often improve the least. Great leadership emerges in a person not when they are told they have the potential to be better, but when they realise it for themselves – and want it. This gives you the drive and self-awareness to create change in yourself.

Self-awareness and an ability to dig deep are at the centre of our ability to learn and lead. It’s all down to us, because it’s rare that someone whose salary you authorise will be courageous enough to tell you what they really think. So, if you scored marks on this list of impossible behaviours - it’s time to challenge your leadership style.

We’ll give Goldsmith the final say. ’The less we focus on ourselves the more we benefit. It’s an interesting equation: Less me. More them. Equals success. Try it.’

 

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Let Your Characters Speak of Character – Elegant Communication in a Digital World

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In 1905 Mark Twain, American writer, humorist and entrepreneur, received a small package and handwritten letter from a gentleman claiming to be a medical doctor. The package contained a snake oil — a cure-all called ‘The Elixir of Life’ — which purported to ‘cure all ailments of the human, animal, and fowl.’ 

Twain was in ill health at the time. His wife had died suddenly the previous year. Moreover meningitis and diphtheria, which the elixir proudly claimed to cure, had taken the lives of both his daughter and 19-month-old son. With these memories still very fresh, Twain communicated his deep dissatisfaction to Mr. J.H Todd - the ‘doctor’ who sent him the package. 


 

Dear Sir,

Your letter is an insoluble puzzle to me. The handwriting is good and exhibits considerable character, and there are even traces of intelligence in what you say, yet the letter and the accompanying advertisements profess to be the work of the same hand. The person who wrote the advertisements is without doubt the most ignorant person now alive on the planet; also without doubt he is an idiot, an idiot of the 33rd degree, and scion of an ancestral procession of idiots stretching back to the Missing Link. It puzzles me to make out how the same hand could have constructed your letter and your advertisements. Puzzles fret me, puzzles annoy me, puzzles exasperate me; and always, for a moment, they arouse in me an unkind state of mind toward the person who has puzzled me. A few moments from now my resentment will have faded and passed and I shall probably even be praying for you; but while there is yet time I hasten to wish that you may take a dose of your own poison by mistake, and enter swiftly into the damnation which you and all other patent medicine assassins have so remorselessly earned and do so richly deserve.

Adieu, adieu, adieu!

Mark Twain


 

In the eloquent and elegant language of his time, and with an initial lightness of touch followed by but a devastating directness that goes straight to the heart of the matter, Twain elucidates his feelings with precision and purpose. 

But how might he have expressed his same dissatisfaction in contemporary times? Would one of our modern, digital methods of appraisal have conveyed his disdain so ably? 

Perhaps he may have reviewed J.H Todd with a zero-star rating or possibly a 120-character tweet with a few choice acronyms thrown in. Would he have agonized over an emoji? Or chosen to go grammatically correct and emoji-free, rising above the hoy polloi in unadulterated prose? And would he have blocked, reported and unfriended Mr Todd, if they were ever ‘friends’ at all?

Joking aside, the strength of Twain’s letter isn’t his clever use of language but the absolute clarity with which he expresses himself. There’s no misunderstanding his message.  

In these progressive times when communicating with others, including your employees, is something to be ‘optimised’ and abbreviated, it’s vital to remain mindful that good communication practices are still at the heart of every successful business, and every business relationship – internal, external, with employees and suppliers, including snake oil vendors.

Communication has the ability to build, and destroy, a relationship very quickly. As a business owners, you can set yourself apart by developing the right communication style for your workplace.  

Thinking the small things through can be particularly helpful. How would you like social media comments to be handled? When to pick up the phone and have a real-time in-person discussion – rather than yet another email. How to hit the right note in email communication – not too formal, but not too personal either. When it’s okay to send a text message, and when a hand written thank-you card is called for – rather than virtual flowers.  

The communication methods you choose to implement now will set the tone for future business.  It’s free marketing, speaks of your own style and your business, and can leave a lasting impression. 

So choose your words carefully. Few of us will achieve the literary prowess of Mark Twain, but adopting a business style that’s meaningful, authentic and perhaps even a little elegant is generally best practice and will be remembered. Would Twain’s letter still be circulating a century later if he had replied with a ‘middle finger’ emoji?  We think not!

 

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How Safe Is Your Decision Making?

How Safe Is Your Decision Making

They say artificial intelligence is coming but it can never replace some of our smarts. Key amongst them is that of process-driven decision making, the art of taking operational issues, applying logic, and achieving workable solutions. You might use a flash of intuition and you’ll definitely apply judgement, but the whole has to be grounded in rock solid structured thinking.

As a leader you’ve got to be across decision-making of every nature. Whether it’s choosing between two compelling options, or assessing a range of possibilities and carefully determining which is best; picking through the day-to-day choices and knowing when to make a quick choice and move on, or when to research more deeply.

Some decisions require elevated wisdom and experience, they’re game changers in our business that will impact our people. They require a calm, collected and concentrated mind, which invests carefully in considering the risk for all involved. In the day-to-day, they may be more random and sudden with unknown variables, quick decisions we make and then adapt on the go.

Smarts and emotional intelligence are required at pretty much every turn.

The Australian Government’s Department of Defence is a place where, not to put it lightly, the decisions made and the minds making them must obviously be of the highest caliber. Their 2015 brief, Good Decision-Making in Defence: a guide for decision-makers and those who brief them is, unsurprisingly, a seminal document when it comes to strategies for decisions making. It outlines five governing principles.

How well could these be adapted into your business?

 

BE FLEXIBLE AND CREATIVE

‘One size fits all’ is not an approach that has a place in smart decision making. Smart decisions are made with flexibility and an openness to the different processes and discussions which might bring about a solution which is truly unique and creative.

Future challenges are not necessarily answered in the same way as past ones – so it makes no sense to rely on the same formulas. Establish a pattern which looks for new solutions, embraces flexibility and new thinking, and avoids replicating past mistakes.

 

MANAGE RISK, DON’T JUST AVOID IT

It is not possible to avoid risk completely. So think about how risks might be mitigated: what controls are needed, what counter measures can be taken. Implement those, and you manage and mitigate. To avoid risk entirely is impossible and it suffocates creativity. Invest your efforts in finding the right balance.

 

TIME AND RESOURCES IN PROPORTION

Decision makers are the people with the most demands on their time, and the most complex demands on their resources. And so true consideration for the decisions they make is necessarily a weightier process.

As a rule, the more serious the possible consequences of a leadership decision - career consequences, financial consequences - the more time and resources should be invested. Consider the relevant information thoroughly and the determine the true criteria upon which the decision should be made. Decisions must occasionally be defended. Time and resources are the tools that enable you reach ones you can stand by – as well as good judgement and common sense.

 

THE BALANCE OF CERTAINTY - MAKE DECISIONS IN REASONABLE TIME

Time, and resources, cannot assure us of the right decision on every occasion. And decision-makers should not postpone making a decision just because there are unknown facts or further possibilities to be explored.

Even in cases where the circumstances do not require urgency, delays can be detrimental and stressful to those waiting for a decision. Lengthy delays may also cause changes of circumstance which affect the matters under decision.

A time-frame is important. Exercise judgement to get the balance right, taking accuracy and timeliness both into account.

 

BALANCE INDIVIDUAL AND ORGANISATIONAL REQUIREMENTS


On occasion, the interests of the individual and those of the organisation may differ. For example, an individual may wish to delay a decision to seek further advice, while the leadership may want to resolve the issue quickly to resume optimal workplace function.

In these cases, the decision-maker must assess and balance the competing interests as part of their process. Professional judgement must be applied once again – in making the decision and safe-guarding the final outcome.

Make decisions you can stand by and which your teams can back – and let the governing principles you model at leadership level filter down through your business. That’s what makes good business great.

 

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