Employee Development - How to Build a Team of High Performers

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So you think you’ve got a pretty good team around you. Well, what if they had hidden potential that you’re just not tapping into? Are they cruising - and could they be soaring?

A great way to stimulate your employees and improve everyone’s productivity, is to tap into hidden capabilities - the leadership skills they might be keeping under wraps, out of modesty or lack of opportunity.

You’re the boss! Create that opportunity! Because you’d be mad not to.

Turning staff into leaders doesn’t happen overnight, and it’s important to get cracking. Whether you’re managing a small team or a substantial department, here’s five ways to go about it.

 

1. SHARE THE VISION - AND THE PASSION

What is your company’s vision? And how is it reflected in your company’s culture? You can have the best strategic direction in the world, but if it doesn’t filter down to the people putting it in place, you’re going nowhere. Share what you’re trying to do. Include them in decisions and give them influence. It gives them a reason to step things up and take on responsibility.

 

2. LET THEM LEAD!

The perfect way to turn employees into leaders is to give them the floor. Know someone who’s got lots to say? Let them run a meeting! They’ll need to write an agenda, present their ideas, coordinate everyone else’s input. Remind them it’s not all about them - they need to let others have their say too. Whether it’s face-to-face or video conferencing, leading a meeting boosts your employees’ confidence and gives them a sense of control.

 

3. BE OPEN TO IDEAS

There are no ‘bad’ ideas. There’s brainstorming, there’s thinking out loud, there’s talking things through. Encourage everyone to have their say. Keep an open mind - no matter how mad the idea sounds, welcome it! You might not run with it, but nobody should ever be made to feel foolish for speaking up. Make it clear that making a contribution is valued. Your employees will feel confident that their opinion will at least be listened to - even if management doesn’t always agree with them.

 

4. SPICE IT UP AND MAKE IT FUN

Ever get those days when you’d just love to be out of the office? You can bet your team does too. So hold a meeting in the park! We spend a lot of our time at work - variety can add spice, ideas and initiative.

Set up a social club and ask them to come up with events - contests, office sweepstakes quizzes and competitions all add to the excitement, and prizes are appreciated.

Does your logo need revitalising? Could your branding be more zesty? Is there a newsletter or product that needs a new name? A bit of healthy competition gets people working together and involved in the company vision - with a sense of ownership when their ideas are adopted. The more engaged your team is, the more leadership qualities they grow.

 

5. GIVE CONSTRUCTIVE FEEDBACK

The best ideas don’t always come from the boss. Once you’ve encouraged your employees to bring their ideas to the party, make sure they’re valued. Talk their ideas through. Give them constructive feedback - how will their idea work, and what aspects need more thought? Take the time to consider all angles, give them praise and make it clear you’re taking their thoughts on board. If they know how serious you are about improving their work, they’ll be more ambitious, more innovative, and more productive.

That’s five ways to tap into potential, nurture their talents, create opportunity and hear them roar!

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Business Networking and 3 Simple Tips From our Heroic Farmers

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Small businesses touch many lives, whether they’re in one of our great Eastern seaboard cities or in a remote location across our big dry land.

Workplaces and commodities might vary, but there’s usually a champion or two in place – either at the helm with the vision and the drive to carry it out, or pushing production and making things happen behind the scenes.

Across Australia, those in business deliver goods, serve them, buy and sell commodities and properties and create, build and facilitate in the digital world and the built environment.

Nowhere other than on the land has the army of workers keeping the wheels oiled, the workers fed and the livestock tended been at the heart of their sector and their community.

Recently in Tasmania, a long-standing group of hard-working agricultural women celebrated a milestone in their history – the twentieth anniversary of Tasmanian Women in Agriculture, a group which came together to support one another in the mid-1990s when times were really tough.

Their stories were documented in a book to celebrate the anniversary, and capture the journey of those farming women and the contribution they have made to agriculture in their state - changing the culture of farming, and the way in which farming women were perceived. Their stories are the journey from invisibility to acknowledgement of the roles they have played, carrying the baton on from their hard-working predecessors.

Fiona Stocker, author of the book A Place in the Stockyard says, ‘These women farmers were called the invisible farmer and classified as ‘unproductive’. There were no photographs of women on the land in government archives and no mention of them in the media.’

The stories told in the book document the myriad ways in which the farming women of Tasmania changed that in their state: getting off their farms and meeting with others, sourcing courses to educate themselves, taking key roles on industry boards, running farm safety campaigns and foundations, winning funding and lobbying government on issues affecting them.

I spoke with the author Fiona Stocker about what she learned from the stories she has brought together for the book, and the top three lessons any small business owner might take away from the experiences of this heroic bunch of women farmers. This is what she said.

 

1. THE NUMBER ONE LESSON IS DON’T DO IT SOLO

Get a network around you. Get out and meet people running similar operations to yours, and learn from them, be inspired by them, take succour and encouragement from them when you need it, and give it back when you can. Women particularly are amazing at generating what it takes to run a business, but we’re not wonder women, and it’s not good for us to do it alone.

 

2. GET BACK TO YOUR ROOTS

The connection between grass roots and those in power is vital, whether you’re talking business or government. It’s vital that those representing us in Parliament stay in touch with what’s happening on the land at grass roots level. You can see the mighty fall when it’s perceived that they don’t genuinely have the best interests of ordinary working people in mind! The same principle, that of leaders needing to have an authentic connection at every level, applies in the business world too.

Before moving to rural Tasmania, Stocker worked for one of the world’s top executive search companies placing CEOs in major national and multi-national corporations. The best candidates were always those who had the ‘common touch’, who could relate to anybody at any level of the business. They had real understanding of what drove people to turn up every day. Only then was that leader perceived to have the deep understanding they needed to be truly effective in the Boardroom or as a strategist.

 

3. ALLOW FOR DIFFERENCES

Some in your sphere of influence will want to work quietly and diligently in a role they’re good at, make their contribution and gain a working lifetime’s worth of satisfaction from that. Others will want to move upwards, challenge and educate themselves, take on new responsibilities, perhaps represent their industry. You’ve got to allow for all comers, and recognise that what everybody puts in must be cherished.

 

Through their endeavours together, she adds, these women gave meaning to and gained energy in their working lives, and eased the way for younger women moving up through agricultural education and into roles in the sector today. By any account, it’s an incredible legacy.

 

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How to be a Great Manager and Keep Your Tribe in a Safe Circle and Why

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Charlie Kim is an unusual guy. One of those standouts who starts something in their college dorm and grows it quickly and exponentially. That dorm-room startup was Next Jump, the New York based mentoring platform that is dedicated to ‘changing workplace culture’. Not just his own workplace culture, you note. Yours and mine too. Everybody’s.

As CEO of Next Jump he leads his company in exceptional ways. Crazily, his 200-some employees are offered a Lifetime Employment Policy – they will stay with Next Jump for life. Performance related issues related issues are countered with coaching and skills training, and termination for under-performance is unheard of.

“Think about when you adopt a child,” says Charlie. “You don’t give the child away when she turns truant or has problems. You work with her to fix them. We treat each hire the same way.”

By taking away the threat of termination, he says, we create a safety net of openness and trust - a platform in which misgivings and inexperience can be owned and faced up to. Employees in this environment are more likely to challenge themselves and take risks, ask for help and be authentic.

Protocol like this can’t exist without an exceptionally considered and well-thought-out recruitment process, as well as innovative follow-through in all the company’s policies. It’s a game-changing commitment – but according to Charlie Kim it brings results. The profitable kind.

Simon Sinek, author, speaker, and leadership consultant, supports this kind of innovation. When an employee feels safe and has a deep sense of trust for an organisation, he says, they are more likely to be collaborative – joining their talents and strengths with colleagues, and working tirelessly to face external dangers together.

This form of behaviour can be traced back 50,000 years to the Paleolithic era, Sinek believes, when the world was full of danger – literally. When things were out to kill us. ‘Nothing personal,’ he says, ‘whether it was the weather, lack of resources, maybe a sabre-toothed tiger, all of these things working to reduce our lifespan. And so we evolved into social animals, where we lived together and worked together in what I call a circle of safety, inside the tribe, where we felt like we belonged.’

That sense of belonging was built on inherent trust and safety. Inside the circle was a tribe of social creatures collaborating for survival – pitching in with all their skills and instincts to keep the cohort thriving.

Modern day is no different, Sinek says. ‘The world is filled with danger, things that are trying to frustrate our lives or reduce our success… It could be the ups and downs in the economy, the uncertainty of the stock market. It could be a new technology that renders your business model obsolete overnight. Or it could be your competition that is sometimes trying to kill you.’

The passage of time has not changed our inherent need to feel safe, to collaborate for survival, to belong to a tribe that works together to protect every individual from danger. The only difference is that when you work in an organisation, it’s the leader who matters the most. It’s the leader who defines the culture, who drives those strong systems of engagement, safety and trust.

Just as Charlie Kim is doing at Next Jump.

Kim’s exceptional approach works because his employees feel safe. The elimination of a very real danger – that of termination - allows his staff to feel secure and protected. There’s an atmosphere of trust. When things are going not well, the support is there to guide employees through – not weed them out.

To Sinek, great leadership is about looking out for the person to your left while supporting the person to your right, and not forgetting about the people above and below. These are the leaders that stand-out. Those who make you feel safe, who are aware of the instinct for a circle of safety. We trust them inherently because they give us no reason to feel otherwise.

They’re the ones who understand that we’re a tribe, and we want to belong.

 

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Want to Be More Successful in the Office? You Need to Get More Sleep!

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There is perhaps nothing more captivating than a sleeping baby. Watch their perfect face relax, see the rosebud lips twitch and their delicate chest rise and fall with each tiny, delicious, languorous breath. As that brief moment of adoration passes and the demands of the day still remain, your mind turns to envy.

Yes, envy - as you push that same infant around in a stroller through endless supermarket aisles, ducking and weaving, your basket overflowing and your burden increasing! Every so often you glance down to see your tranquil companion is still enjoying the ride and cooing at the bright lights and sounds. If only the experience were as restful and restorative for you!

As infants, we’re nurtured and cared for. Sent to bed after a day of play, and fed well so our legs grow long and our brains grow healthy. Time passes. We lose our milk teeth and pass through puberty, maybe graduate with a cap and gown. Then begins the slog of a career, and if we’re lucky we squeeze in a partner and family. A remarkably common feature amongst all the variables here is that slippage occurs, and we do much less of one particular thing. Sleep.

Two-and-a-half years ago, Arianna Huffington fainted from exhaustion. She hit her head on her desk, broke her cheekbone, and had to have five stitches in her right eye. ‘And I began the journey of rediscovering the value of sleep,’ she says.

Huffington, the founder of The Huffington Post, CEO of Thrive Global and author of 15 books, is not surprisingly the go-to on many subjects, However, driven from her own personal experiences of utter exhaustion and lack of sleep she is extremely passionate about sending one very specific message…

‘When you’re burned out and exhausted, it’s much harder to see clearly the dangers or opportunities ahead.’

Huffington knows that whether you’re the CEO of a multi-million-dollar company or the administrator of a 24hour distribution plant, the psychological demands are equally exhausting. Our bodies each have the same basic needs. And sleep is a big one.

 

HOW DID IT GET SO LATE, SO SOON?

Two things stood out in Huffington’s research. One, every element of our lives is enriched if we get enough sleep. And secondly, our biggest mistake is in measuring our success by the time we invest in it, rather than the quality of work we put in. Bill Clinton, who was renowned for sleeping only five or six hours a night throughout his presidency, observes…

‘Every important mistake I have made in my life, I’ve made because I was tired.’

If only he’d been thinking more clearly that day in the oval office with the cigar. Of course, getting more sleep is easier said than done - especially when our culture thrives on 24-hour data streaming and play-on-demand TV.

 

SLEEP - YOUR NEW STABLEMATE

The tricky part is finding the golden number – how many hours of sleep do we need to be mindfully present and completely engaged in our day? Everyone is slightly different, so once you have found yours, it’s time to get committed.

Here are three strategies Huffington has lived, breathed and made work:

  1. Tell people – own up to it. If everything you do could be done better on a really good night’s sleep, be candid about it. Let those around you know that you will be far more interesting and engaging tomorrow if you have the right amount of zeds.
  2. Schedule a meeting – it’s simple. A fee-paying client would find tardiness completely unacceptable. Treat your sleep the same way. Here’s the formula – the time you need to wake up minus your magic hours of sleep. BAM. This is the time you need to go to bed. Set a really annoying reminder if you have to.
  3. Stop temptation – turn all devices off. No beebs, blings, horns, swooshes or sweeps. Not only does this give your body a physical signal that it is ‘shutting down’, it prevents any middle-of-the-night temptation to check devices or be woken by their alluring vibrations.

There’s no doubt that Huffington is onto a good thing with her ideas on sleep, and we all know in our hearts that she’s right. It’s good to be reminded that as the years advance, we may not be as captivatingly beautiful while sleeping like a baby, but our need for rest has not changed. Nurture yourselfyourself and don’t be afraid to start pushing up more zeds!

 

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The Most Effective Leadership Changes you Need to Make to be Successful

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To say that Marshall Goldsmith knows a thing or two about leadership is understating on a truly epic scale.

Rated #1 Leadership Thinker and one of the Top Ten Most Influential Business Thinkers in the World. Top-ranked Executive Coach at the 2013 biennial Thinkers50 ceremony, and twice a New York Times best-seller. 

Appearing in Australia this year, he gave a series of media interviews – all highly compelling and motivating. There was no shortage of insights for all types of heads - for anyone keen to learn how the world’s top CEOs achieve positive change and continue to achieve great things for themselves and their brands.

Here are just three of his top insights – because even the briefest moment of understanding can change things for you for good. And curiously, that’s one of his points.

 

DON’T BECOME A HAMSTER ON A WHEEL

Goldsmith shares the advice given to him very early in his career by Dr. Paul Hersey, co-creator of the highly influential management model Situational Leadership™. “One day he told me that I was very good at what I did, selling days and speaking, but that I was making too much money and complacent in my success,” Goldsmith says. 

“He told me that I was just a hamster on a wheel not going anywhere, that I would probably make lots of money and have a good life, but if I continued doing what I was doing I wouldn’t become the person I could be.”

Goldsmith was quite comfortable coasting on his success. People were happy and business was lucrative. So he ignored Hersey’s advice. Fast forward twelve years, and he finally got it. To go from good to great, you can’t rest on your laurels, even if you are dancing with a cash cow. You have to be truly engaged with the things that get you most excited. Ultimately, Goldsmith realised this was original thinking, writing, creating and research.  

His gold nugget was “I would never have known that coasting on our achievements can be one of the biggest flaws of very successful people!”

 

IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT YOU

The trickiest part of transitioning into leadership is managing your ego.  It’s tough, says Goldsmith. You dedicate your entire career to winning, but as you get promoted and move up the ladder, winning should no longer be about you - it should be about the team. This, he says, can be a very hard transition for many leaders to make.

For those who are brave enough to put their ego aside, Goldsmith says the rewards are prolific. We all have wisdom: we know a lot, have great qualifications and a desire to help. A good leader has the capacity to put their own over-confidence on the bench, and look to others for answers.  They’re inclined to listen to what the others are saying and recognise that by doing so they understand all perspectives and not just their own, and become a well-rounded leader – and person – with authenticity and the backing of those around them. Self-awareness, says Goldsmith, is critical to success. 

 

YOU HAVE TO WANT IT

Counter intuitive it may be, but the clients Goldsmith spends the least time with are the ones who improve the most, he says, 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.  You need drive and self-awareness to create change in yourself.

This is probably one of the reasons, Goldsmith jokes, that he will never be asked to coach Donald Trump!

As leaders of teams and small businesses, we have much to learn from Goldsmith’s approachapproach, valuable lessons which are simple but highly effective. ‘The less we focus on ourselves the more we benefit. It’s an interesting equation: Less me. More them. Equals success. Try it.’  So says Goldsmith and it’s hard not to agree!

 

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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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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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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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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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Endure and Enjoy! Surviving Small Biz – and the School Holidays

Working mother

What do small business ownership, parenthood and crowdfunding for finance have in common?

Well, many of us will do each of them over the course of our adult life. They all feel like endurance sports at times, requiring Olympian levels of vitality, versatility and inventiveness, grit and determination. And they’re all hugely enjoyable.

And what do you need when faced with vertical learning curves and constant juggling, when you’re looking over the rim of a glass of lunchtime Sauvignon and thinking back fondly to your corporate career? Survival strategies!

BE FAST AND CHOOSY

It’s a maxim that comes in handy when looking for husband or wife material in our twenties and it can still serve us well in working life. There’s not a lot of time to waste if you’re fitting your workload into the short hours while small people are at school. That’s a 30 hour working week and every minute has to count. If you’re driving and growing a small business, and if you’re a parent to boot, you are at the coal face when it comes to understanding the value of doing things fast. Doing them well, but crunching the important details, with no time for sweating the small stuff.

Work every day with a priorities list. Choose the things you really want to get done, which have an hourly rate or a fee attached to them, which push forward a useful connection, or drive a campaign. That way, the minute the school bus hits the gravel at the end of the driveway, you can take satisfaction in having achieved what you needed to from the day – and the rest of that day is all about the people you’re doing it for.

GET OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE – AND LIKE IT!

You learn to put your collywobbles aside when you’re in small business. It’s all about putting yourself and your ideas out there. The secret is simple: just take one small step at a time away from your comfort zone. Don’t let yourself get overcome by the ultimate goal. Break things down into small achievable chunks, and focus on one at a time. Make one phone call. Write one email to an angel investor. You never know what is going to reap rewards, so just keep going. Before you know it, your comfort zone has expanded to twice its original size without you even realising!

"It always seems impossible until it's done." - Nelson Mandela, South African anti-apartheid leader

BE A JACK OF ALL TRADES – BUT AIM TO OUTSOURCE

You’ve got to wear all the hats as an entrepreneur. Have your idea, grow your idea, realise it, market it, get it funded. You’ve got to know finance, marketing, the digital age and how to get on with people in real life and the virtual space. If you’re already transitioning daily between being a red hot innovator at work and a hot mummy or daddy at home, you’re used to switching roles and maybe you love it. But when there’s capacity and finances, outsource.

Whatever you’re a non-starter at in your business, bring the expertise in from elsewhere, whether it’s the accounts, marketing or business development. Form a partnership, do a small business exchange. Get a cleaner to keep your surfaces clear and your feng shui flowing at home. And if you’re crowdfunding or financing a product, look for help with the marketing strategy you’ll need for when you’re fully funded. Because 100% funded is where it all begins!

TAKE IT EASY!

Seriously. Don’t be hard on yourself. If you’re driving any sort of business, campaign or project forwards plus keeping house and home together as well, be sure to program in downtime. The human brain wasn’t manufactured in a Ferrari factory and it’s not designed to be driven at constant high speed. Take time out!

Need some reassurance that it’s not time wasted? Ever woken up with a great idea for that product you’re developing / recruit you’re making / newsletter you’re writing? That’s because your subconscious has been working on things while you were sleeping. Downtime and rest are not time wasted – they’re essential in looking after your mental health.

“Alternating periods of activity and rest is necessary to survive, let alone thrive.” - Tim Ferris, author of ‘The Four Hour Work Week’

KEEP GOING!

The biggest and best philosophy of all? Don’t give up. Success comes in incremental steps – those same small steps you began taking out of your comfort zone earlier in the piece.

"Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat." - F. Scott Fitzgeral, American author


#HR editor, writer and small business owner Fiona Stocker runs a small farm, food and agri-tourism business with her husband, and is crowdfunding her first book Apple Island Wife: Escape to Tasmania with major international crowdfunding publisher Unbound, based in the UK. Read more and pledge your support on the Unbound campaign page.

 

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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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What’s in a Word? How to Plant Seeds – Not Weeds

Whats-in-a-Word-How-to-Plant-Seeds--Not-Weeds

In business we like things to be forecast – facts and figures, spreadsheets, bottom line and top growth. And as humans we get great pleasure from knowing the simple thing, like where we sit, the hours we work, what the office etiquette is around the coffee machine, and how well we are performing.

Still, unpredictable things happen in the world of work. Benchmarks move and expectations change. It can be a sign of healthy growth, or that we’re capable of more. Either way, it must be spoken about – and well.

When things change, especially unpredictably, communicating well is not just best practice, it’s the growth stimulant that will keep your garden green. If you’re keen to keep your healthy workplace eco-system flourishing, your employees engaged and your people passionate, choose your words well.

As leaders, despite our best efforts, we don’t always get the balance right. One day we’re awesome. The next we fumble something, our reputation suffers and our brand takes a hit.

Here are two occasions in which a misplaced word or a communication blind spot can plant weeds instead of seeds:

 

1. DON'T SAY TOO MUCH

Recently a major Australian retailer made a very public announcement that they were in the midst of a billion-dollar corporate restructure. Every media outlet published a headline and details about ‘tough decisions’ being imminent.

So many words, so much newspaper print. Most ordinary Australians went on with their lives – all except the corporate staff of the retailer. “The first we knew of the re-structure was through the headlines,” one senior manager relayed to me. “That fuelled office banter and speculation. Everyone was talking about it, everyone except management. It was the worst time, disastrous for all of us working in the team.”

What created a disconnect for this gentleman was the world knowing first, whereas his team, the people at the coal face, were left with speculation, unpredictability and uncertainty.

Keeping staff engaged and helping them understand new directions encourages new growth. Saying too much, and not to them, is dangerous if you want to keep your people passionate.

Or as John Wayne once said, “Talk low, talk slow, and don’t say too much.” It’s not the winning maxim of a headlining CEO, but it’s pretty snappy.

 

2. KEEP IT CRYSTAL CLEAR

Recently, I met with an Account Director from one of the largest and most respected professional service networks in the world. The company has supported her career from graduation, providing her with international roles and flexibility when children took her out of the office. She has many reasons to love her employer and it’s evident that her employer appreciates her loyalty and dedication.

However, she came to me feeling a little baffled. “I think I have just been blindsided,” she said. For months she had been squeezing what was really a full-time job into her agreed-upon three days. Naturally this took its toll on her usual cheeriness, and her astute senior manager picked up on this. He agreed that her workload was beyond three days and suggested that she should be paid for four instead, to compensate the growing demands of her role. Brilliant, she thought, reading this as a straight pay-rise for the same commitment.

A week or two later, HR met with her to confirm the new terms – three days in the office and one day working at home with the children. It wasn’t what she understood had been communicated to her. Nor was it what she wanted.

Meaning and clarity can get lost in translation, especially when there are different departments and individuals involved. Fail to spell out the details clearly and you can end up with a compost of uncertainty, confusion and mistakes. One party assumes the other knows what they mean. The other draws the wrong conclusions.

Napoleon Hill put it succinctly, as one might expect. “Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” Besides being an impresario and author of the world’s first personal success books Hill was an advisor to two American Presidents, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D Roosevelt. His book ‘Think and Grow Rich’ has sold 20 million copies worldwide.

Good communication is like photosynthesis. Get the words down pat and the conditions right, and we all keep reaching for the light together!

 

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Lean In – This Is Just the Beginning

Lean-In

Despite our best efforts, there are moments in life where business goes on pause, because other priorities are calling in a voice that can’t be ignored.

It might be a rope-jump tournament, or a whole school assembly in which a young person has a speaking role. Or a five-a-side match where there’s just a chance of the ball making contact with our child’s foot. And sometimes it really does seem as if the house will fall down if we don’t bear presence to an essential piece of maintenance.

Just secretly, we might enjoy going to the Easter parade. We might treasure the paper bunny ears our four year old has made. And we’re right to. Because this is what we’re working for.

But we worry. We worry that our professional credibility appears compromised. We worry that our little people suffer our absence too often. We worry that our own health and wellbeing is copping a hit – from the hectic pace, from trying to fit everything in, and not least from all the worry.

The juggling and the worrying is very real.

Those of us who work and parent, whatever our gender, are used to the tradeoffs we make in order to get things done and still be present for our loved ones. And it seems that women are still likely to be more used to it than men.

You only have to look at the research on housework and how it fits with all this shuffling and compromising, to see that there’s progress to be made. Science Daily states that ‘Women of all ages tend to do more household chores than their male partners, no matter how much they work or earn in a job outside the home. New findings demonstrate the persistent gendered nature of how housework is divided.’

Bear with us, you blokes! We’re in the business of equaling things up and engaging in the debate here. You’ll be hearing everybody’s version of reality – and yours is a key role.

If women are the gender statistically shown to carry the biggest burden, the question then becomes what are we all doing to change that?


THE SECOND SHIFT


This ‘tradeoff’ isn’t a modern day complexity. In 1989, Arlie Hochschild wrote the ‘second shift’, in her seminal book, ‘Working Parents and the Revolution at Home’. The ‘second shift’ is a term borrowed from industrial life. ‘You’re on duty at work. You come home, and you’re on duty. Then you go back to work and you’re on duty.’


UNSPOKEN ASSUMPTIONS


Our gender behaviours are not the result of some deliberate or cunning plot. They have resulted from centuries of unspoken assumptions about what relative roles that men and women should occupy in society, and what we are each supposed to be like.

In contemporary times, when we all understand in theory that whether we are naturally ambitious and creative, or naturally domestic and nurturing is not something necessarily decided by gender, we can all finally move on - right?

If only it were so easy.


LEVELLING THE PLAYING FIELD


The data says that some of the compromises we make stems from the lack of flexible options available to women, once they are back in the workforce after having children. It also indicates that although men and women might both say they’re willing to make career sacrifices to support their spouse or raise a family, women are still much more likely to do so.

A 2016 report conducted by Bain & Company, ‘Level the playing field: A call for action on gender parity in Australia',  highlights that while ’76 percent of male respondents said they have spouses who would make sacrifices for them, only 48 percent of women felt similarly.’

So, although the assumptions of the past have changed and we agree collectively that managing tradeoffs and life-work balance should be shared equally, the playing field remains lopsided. Overall, only minor changes have occurred within our workplaces and the family units.


LEAN IN


In 2013, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg, and writer Nell Scovell wrote, ‘Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead’. The term ‘lean in’ quickly gained momentum and fired discussion. Sandberg believed that women should be the prime instigators of making changes - projecting confidence, taking a seat at the board table, and physically leaning forwards to make themselves heard.

There has been much contention over these ideas, and Sandberg herself has made some adjustments to her original thinking – one of these being to recognise that men too should be ‘leaning in’.

‘Two years ago, I wrote a book that encouraged women to lean in. Maybe you've heard the phrase. Maybe you had no idea what it meant. Or maybe you steered clear of the whole concept because you didn't think it applied to men. Actually, it does. You — a man — can lean in, too. You can lean in to your family. You can lean in to supporting women in the workplace. And here's the best part: You will benefit when you do.’ - Sheryl Sandberg, Esquire Magazine, 12 March 2015

Here at #HR we believe, know and sense in our bones that Sandberg is onto something, as are many other contemporary thought leaders. Stick with us over the coming months as we bring you their ideas – and yours too. How do regular people in small business ‘lean in’ and cope with the demands upon them – in business, family, and all those unspoken assumptions.

Help us spread the word and broaden our thinking together. Subscribe to receive these articles, and tell your friends to do the same. #wink.

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Carla Schesser
Totally agree Anna!
Wednesday, 22 November 2017 17:46
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Work It, Work It - and Breathe!

Work-it-Work-it-Breathe

‘When did you last take time to breathe? Be still, fill your lungs and let it all out?’ This is the question posed to readers by print magazine Breathe recently. In our chaotic lives, they say, it’s easy to forget the importance of investing in our body and soul – just breathing and being.

Are there particular stressors that tip you over the edge into frantic? Business decisions and accountabilities? Pulling long hours? Feeling isolated? Cash-flow? And what about the other every-day factors such as kids, family, spouse and ad hoc events that all add to the pull and push. We’d each recognize and relate to all of those, and the sum of all these parts can seem overwhelming - enough to make even the calmest heart palpitate faster.

We all know deep in our fast-beating entrepreneurial hearts that taking time out for ourselves makes us better business leaders and entrepreneurs - and better humans too.

But when we’re riding the roller coaster it can be hard to find exactly the right moment to jump off for a spell. We might never get back on! Planning a poolside holiday with cocktails is all very well, but it’s easier said than done.

The answer? Build some strategies into your everyday working life to allow your brains and body to re-fuel with the good stuff. No time to make like a Buddha at a Balinese retreat? No sweat! Here are some simple measure you can take closer to home.

 

MAKE EVERY MEAL THE MOST IMPORTANT

Seventy percent of your energy is spent on digestion. Amazing, right? It happens when you’re not doing or thinking about much else, and it takes some effort. Furthermore, the foodstuffs you’re providing your body with make a difference too. The less natural and the more they have to do with white coats, laboratories and conveyor belts, the more energy your body requires to digest them. Yup, turns out nature knows best when it comes to what you’re eating.

So fuel yourself with good food - it’s the least you can do for your body! Be kind with what you put in your mouth, because a diet of fresh, raw and home-cooked foods are the best way to deliver the enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that keep you breathing easy too.

 

MOVE

We’re not talking gym membership, or even an evening jog. Just make movement a part of your working life and bring it up front in your consciousness. Park further away from the office, leave the building to eat lunch, track your steps, walk to someone’s desk instead of sending an email, take the stairs. You don’t necessarily have the best ideas while seated behind your desk. Sometimes they arrive when you’re elsewhere – and your subconscious is doing the work for you. Going for a wander can be productive! Move more and sit less – or ring the changes by holding your next meeting standing up. Simple but effective ways of keeping you on the move, motivated and just a little bit refreshed.

 

MUSIC

Music can have profound effects on both your emotions and your body. Faster music helps us feel more alert, and perhaps even concentrate better. Upbeat music often spurs optimism and positive thoughts, while a slower tempo quiets minds and relaxes muscles, helping us to feel soothed and releasing the stress of the daystress of the day. Just remember: one person’s beat-box is another person’s white noise, so earplugs are the go.

 

A PRODUCTIVITY SECRET

We couldn’t let the chance to share one of our best ‘to-do’ list tricks slip past. Breathe easier by picking the most challenging, important or profitable task of your workday as the one you do first thing. Once it’s achieved, everything else may seem much easier, more manageable, and stress-free. This can help build momentum and keep you focused and achieving for the rest of the day.


We all have those days where clear thinking is gone with the wind and we find ourselves pinned to our seat, paralysed. The trick is to get up, move, keep refreshing and using the simple tricks to manage your workload that do it for you. But most importantly, just breathe!

 

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